By Sarah Magliocco
Obama voiced his opinions on the human rights issues of Cuba while addressing the Cuban public, and expressed the importance of democracy.
“I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear. To organize and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully. And that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.”
Obama also directly addressed Castro, asking him not to fear free speech from his people, and hails a new era of the Americas.
“I believe that every person should have the freedom to exercise their faith peacefully and publicly, and yes I believe in free and democratic elections. Not everybody agrees with me on this.”
“But I believe those human rights are universal. I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people and people around the world.”
Obama also condemned the Brussels attacks and said that the United States will stand by Belgium as allies and will do whatever is necessary to bring to justice those who are responsible.
“The world must unite. We must be together, regardless of nationality, or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people around the world.” said Obama in his address to the people of Cuba.
Obama began by thanking Castro and people of Cuba for warm welcome and said “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the cold war in the Americas. I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people”.
He went on to outline the differences between the two countries governments, but despite these differences, he said, he and Castro will work together to improve relations and create new mutual initiatives in trade, healthcare, science and the environment.
Obama said the trade embargo between the US and Cuba would be fully lifted. “As president of the United States I have called on our congress to lift the embargo. It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people and on the Americans who want to work or do business or invest here in Cuba. It is time to lift the embargo.”
“Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation… The future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans not by anybody else,” said Obama
President Castro requested that the US end its long running blockade against Cuba. The United States embargo against Cuba is a commercial, economic, and financial block and was first imposed by the United States on Cuba in October, 1960.
US President Barack Obama paid a historic visit to Cuba and engaged in talks with Cuban president Raul Castro at the Place of Revolution, Havana.
The Obama-Castro handshake at the end of their bilateral meeting pic.twitter.com/NJRaDQukvu
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 21, 2016
Obama and Castro agreed to fight drug trafficking and assist one another in fighting health issues such as the Zika virus. However, there are still “very serious differences” of opinion on important aspects such as human rights.
Obama applauded Castro for openly discussing the problems between the US and Cuba but he said that a “full flowering” of the relationship would be impossible without progress on the issue of human rights.
“In the absence of that, I think it will continue to be a very powerful irritant,” Obama said in a joint news conference with Mr Castro.
At the news conference, Mr Castro initially skirted questions about political prisoners being held in Cuba, but said that if he was given a list of names he would “release them tonight”.
Castro also demanded the US return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba in an address to the media after the talks so that it may be closed. He also warned against efforts to stir up opposition or encourage democracy: “No one should demand that the Cuban people renounce their freedom and sovereignty.”