Cuban Embargo Is “Going to End” Says President Obama During Historic Havana Trip
News| | By Jason Owen
For the first time in 88 years, a sitting U.S. president is touring Cuba as Barack Obama and the first family landed in the island nation late Sunday for a quick two-day visit that, if nothing else, shows easing tensions with the communist nation.
The trip to Cuba marks the third time Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have met since 15 months ago when the Obama administration announced the “restoration of diplomatic ties,” according to ABC News. In an interview with David Muir, President Obama said he believes Castro wants real change and a “more prosperous” nation, which would begin with lifting the U.S. trade embargo.
But President Obama stopped short of saying precisely when he thinks the embargo might be lifted, simply noting that “the embargo’s going to end,” in a long press conference between the leaders on Monday.
Later Monday night, Obama told ABC news, “I believe that President Castro truly wants change. I do not believe that President Castro wants to upend the Union Party or the system they have. And I think that’s going to require a transition that happens over the course of the next generation of Cubans.”
President Castro seemed to agree the embargo could soon end, but maintained that he believes the U.S. must do more.
“Much more could be done if the U.S. blockade could be lifted,” Castro said during the daytime press conference, according to CNN. “The most recent measures adopted by [Obama’s] administration are positive, but insufficient.”
However, just because the two leaders are meeting, does not mean they see eye to eye on everything.
During the press conference, Obama “appeared to relish putting Castro on the spot” as journalists asked “pointed queries on human rights, political prisoners, and economic reforms,” CNN wrote.
Critics have questioned why President Obama would visit the country while such abuses of democracy were still prevalent, to which he took the opportunity to address those concerns. From CNN:
“We have decades of profound differences,” Obama said when asked what his message on human rights was during his “frank conversation” on the issue with Castro. “I told President Castro that we are moving forward and not looking backwards.”
“We will continue to stand up for basic principles that we believe in,” said Obama, who at points insisted that Castro answer the questions posed to him by American journalists. “America believes in democracy. We believe that freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, are not just American values but universal values.”
Obama underscored those sentiments in his exclusive evening interview with ABC News.
“My view is that people have a right to express their differences. Now, one of the things I said to President Castro, and I truly believe this, is that if they were less fearful of dissent, then not only might they be able to improve government, but I suspect that they could enhance their legitimacy in the eyes of the Cuban people,” Obama said. “Better to listen, hear them out. And he may discover that in fact they have something to teach him.”
On Tuesday, Obama will give a historic address to the Cuban people along with scheduled plans to visit many of the entrepreneurs in the nation, whom he views as one of the many avenues to help ease tensions as flight restrictions are slowly scaled back. With more tourism from Americans in the country, Obama expects significant change to come to the country.
“What you’re gonna end up seeing is a freer and more prosperous Cuba,” said Obama.
Along with Obama and the first family, 39 delegates from Congress, including five Republicans, accompanied the President on the trip.