Excerpts from President Obama’s press conference at the end of the
“Over the past few days, we’ve seen potential positive signs in the nature of the relationship between the
“One thing that I thought was interesting – and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms – hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have – have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region.
“Look, what I said and what I think my entire administration has acknowledged is, is that the policy that we’ve had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free. And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it comes to our policy in
“It is my belief that we’re not going to change that policy overnight, and the steps that we took I think were constructive in sending a signal that we’d like to see a transformation. But I am persuaded that it is important to send a signal that issues of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy – that those continue to be important, that they're not simply something to be brushed aside.
“Now, I think that as a starting point, it’s important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy, and the fact that you had Raul Castro say he’s willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that’s a sign of progress.
“And so we’re going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban American families to send remittances. It turns out that
“So there are going to be some ways that the Cuban government I think can send some signals that they're serious about pursuing change. And I'm hopeful that over time the overwhelming trend in the hemisphere will occur in