Obama calls on Congress to end the embargo on Cuba

The US Interests Section building in Havana, soon to be the US Embassy. Photo: Bill Klipp
The US Interests Section building in Havana, soon to be the US Embassy. Photo: Bill Klipp

HAVANA TIMES — President Barack Obama asked the US Congress tonight in his State of the Union address, to begin working “this year” to end the embargo on Cuba in place for over half a century, reported dpa news.

“And this year Congress should start working to end the embargo,” said Obama, who also referred to the resumption of relations with Cuba announced last month after decades of lingering Cold War confrontation.

Despite the measures taken to resume relations by Obama, the law that codifies the embargo since 1961 can only be changed by Congress, with a strong Republican majority for the next two years.

“In Cuba we are ending a policy that had long since reached its expiration date. When what you’ve been doing for 50 years doesn’t work, it’s time to try something different,” said Obama.

“Our change in policy toward Cuba has the potential to wipe out a legacy of distrust in our hemisphere, remove false excuses for restrictions in Cuba, defend democratic values and extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” the president said.

“As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is a task of small steps,” he added, referring to the mediator role played by the pontiff in the rapprochement between the two countries.

“These small steps have brought new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years of imprisonment, we welcome Alan Gross home. Welcome home, Alan,” said Obama addressing Gross who was present as a special guest at the joint session of both houses of Congress.

Gross was released by Cuba this past December 17, after serving five out of his 15 year prison sentence for entering the country with sophisticated telecommunications devices prohibited by Cuban law.

His release and that of a Cuban spy who had worked for the CIA was offset by the release of three Cubans (of the Cuban Five) convicted of espionage in the United States. The exchange was part of the agreement between the two countries to start a new era.

The Republican majority in Congress, critical of the rapprochement saying that change in Cuba policy should not occur until there has been significant progress in respect for human rights and democracy on the island, invited dissident Jorge Luis Garcia “Antunez”, and Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in 2012 in a traffic accident whose family attributed responsibility to the Cuban government.

In addition, the Cuban Carlos Curbelo, a new Republican congressman from Florida and contrary to the approach of the administration regarding the island, was designated by his party to give the reply in Spanish to the president’s speech.

4 thoughts on “Obama calls on Congress to end the embargo on Cuba

  • Hahaha! Apologies accepted. However, odds are that fat, lobster-skinned tourist arriving in Varadero is arriving from Canada..

  • Correct. That was pert of the deal too.

    Also in the news recently, at least two of those 53 were re-arrested a few days later. Raul’s catch-and-release, rinse & repeat program continues.

    John, you & I don’t agree on much, but I do agree with you that this deal is more about regime survival for the Castro dictatorship and profits for US business. Democracy for the Cuban people is a fig-leaf Obama has donned for US domestic political consumption. The fig-leaf will be stripped off faster than a thong on a fat US tourist arriving in Veradaro.

    (My apologies for the disturbing mental image.)

  • And 53 “political” prisoners who were recently released .
    This was in the news recently.

  • The Obama administration has claimed that Gross was released by the Cuban government as a humanitarian gesture and not as part of any quid-pro-quo deal. The official line is that the 3 Cuban spies were released in exchange for a high value US intelligence assets, a Cuban who spied for the US and had been in a Cuban prison for 20 years. This is of course a fig-leaf to cover the truth: Gross was indeed traded for the 3 spies.

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