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barack obama in cuba


President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro have held a historic joint news conference in Havana, discussing human rights and lifting the trade embargo.

Both presidents agreed to work together, despite wrangling over human rights.

Raul Castro said more needed to be done to lift the US embargo on trade with Cuba and that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp must close.

Barack Obama, the first sitting US president to visit Cuba since 1959, said the trade embargo would be fully lifted.

Raul Castro took questions from reporters – a rarity for him.Barack Obama and Raul Castro news conference Havana

“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,” Barack Obama said.

Asked about political prisoners in Cuba, Raul Castro denied it, telling journalists to “give him a list” and then they would be released “tonight”.

The Cuban president also defended his country’s record on human rights and pointed to problems in the US.

“We defend human rights, in our view civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are indivisible, inter-dependent and universal,” Raul Castro said.

Raul Castro is not usually subject to any aggressive questioning from reporters and called the prisoners question “not polite”, later ending the news conference by saying: “I think this is enough.”

“Actually we find it inconceivable that a government does not defend and ensure the right to healthcare, education, social security, food provision and development,” he said.

Barack Obama could not say exactly when the trade embargo would be lifted, but recognized it was necessary.

“The reason is what we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people,” he said.

His administration has done what it can on lifting trade restrictions, Barack Obama said, but further action will require Congress which is “not as productive in an election year”.

Barack Obama also said further easing of the trade embargo will depend on actions Cuba takes on human rights.

He said it is not just Cuba that the US has “deep disagreements” about human rights with – it also has disagreements with China and Vietnam.

“I believe if I engage frankly, clearly, stating our beliefs but I can’t force change on any country – it ultimately has to come from within – that is a more useful strategy,” he said.

“I have faith in people.”

Reporters described the press conference as “tense” and “remarkable”.

Before the speech, it was announced that Google was opening an online technology center for free Internet access at much higher speeds than what is available in Cuba now.

Google hopes the center will be part of a larger effort to improve Internet access in Cuba.


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have arrived in Cuba for a historic visit to the island and talks with President Raul Castro.

Barack Obama is the first sitting US president to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution, which heralded decades of hostility.

“Looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people,” he tweeted on arrival.

President Barack Obama will meet Cuban President Raul Castro, but not retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, and the pair will discuss trade and political reform.

Barack Obama emerged smiling from Air Force One with First Lady Michelle and their daughters Sasha and Malia.

Holding umbrellas, the party walked in light drizzle along a red carpet to be greeted by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Barack Obama’s visit is the highpoint of a recent easing of ties, which included the opening of embassies last year.

Only hours before his arrival, protesters calling for the release of political prisoners were arrested in the capital, Havana.

Police took away dozens of demonstrators from the Ladies in White group, formed of political prisoners’ wives, from outside a church where they attempt to hold weekly protests.

Correspondents say the visit – the first by a sitting US president for 88 years – marks a huge turnaround in US-Cuban relations.

Barack Obama’s visit represents the opening of a new chapter in the affairs of the two nations.

Raul Castro and Barack Obama will sit together at a state dinner, there will be a joint news conference and they will discuss trade.

The White House has made it clear President Barack Obama will meet political dissidents, whether the Cuban authorities like it or not. That is expected to include members of the Ladies in White group.

However, this visit does not mark a complete normalization in US- Cuban relations.

The 54-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba is still in place and can only be lifted by a vote in Congress. Meanwhile, Cuba still complains about the occupation of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.


President Barack Obama will visit Cuba in the coming weeks as part of a broader trip to Latin America, reports say.

Barack Obama will be only the second sitting US president in history to travel to Cuba, after Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

Republicans have criticized the visit, saying it should not take place while the Castro family is in power.

Washington and Havana restored diplomatic ties in July 2015 and the US relaxed travel and trade restrictions after a 54-year freeze.

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sons of Cuban migrants, said the visit was a mistake.

Asked whether he would go, Marco Rubio said: “Not if it’s not a free Cuba.”Barack Obama to visit Cuba

Ted Cruz said Barack Obama would be acting “as an apologist”.

In December, Barack Obama told Yahoo News he wanted to meet political dissidents in Cuba to help “nudge the Cuban government in a new direction”.

Cuba’s government responded by saying Barack Obama was welcome to visit but should not meddle in the country’s internal affairs.

Barack Obama’s visit could coincide with the signing of a peace deal in Havana between the Colombian government and rebels from the Farc group to end that country’s civil war, due to take place by March 23.

The deal was encouraged by the Cuban government.

On February 16, US and Cuban officials signed a deal to resume commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades.

However, the Republican majority in the Congress has blocked Barack Obama’s call to end the longstanding trade embargo.

The embargo limits trade and also bans US tourists from visiting Cuba.