Friday, November 15, 2013

The Intriguing Words of President Obama in Miami

Obama Calls for Updated US Policy on Cuba

VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama says it is time for the United States to revise its policies regarding Cuba.

Speaking in Miami Friday, Obama said it doesn't make sense that policies put in place more than 50 years ago would still be effective in the Internet age.

The president pointed out that Cuban leader Fidel Castro came into power in 1961, the same year Obama was born. The United States cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba that same year and imposed an economic embargo a year later.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba is controversial internationally. In October, the United Nations voted to condemn it for the 22nd time.

The Obama administration has engaged in recent discussions with the Cubans on migration and mail, and has relaxed travel and remittance rules for Cuban Americans.

Obama Tells Dissidents He's Begun To See 'Changes' In Cuba

Published November 09, 2013

MIAMI –  U.S. President Barack Obama said in a meeting here with Cuban dissidents that he had begun to see "changes" on the communist-ruled island.

Obama met Friday with a group of prominent Cuban government opponents, including Guillermo Fariñas and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, at the residence of Jorge Mas Santos, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation.

The U.S. president referred to Cuba's recent relaxing of economic and travel restrictions, adding that the United States needs to be "creative" and imaginative in its relations with the Caribbean island.

Obama lamented the growing "partisanship" in Washington with respect to Cuba, saying it was blocking the chance for further progress on that foreign policy front.

The United States has started to see changes on the island, Obama said in his first meeting with Cuban dissidents in his five years as president.

Havana has introduced free-market reforms since President Raul Castro took over from his older brother Fidel in 2006 and this year loosened restrictions on Cubans traveling abroad.

At the start of the 40-minute gathering, attended by roughly 30 people, Fariñas said it was proof of the White House's support for Cuba's dissident movement and added that he would personally ask Obama not to hold any meeting with the Cuban government without the presence of the opposition.

Asked after the meeting if he feared returning to the island, Fariñas said he was not concerned but he also did not rule out "reprisals" by the Cuban authorities.

Soler, who was dressed in white at the gathering, told reporters afterward that "Cuba's freedom depends exclusively on Cubans."

Obama visited Miami Friday afternoon for a Democratic fundraiser and returned to Washington on Saturday.

Obama says U.S. needs to update policies on Cuba

9:07 p.m. CST, November 8, 2013
MIAMI (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday that it may be time for the United States to revise its policies toward Cuba, against which it has had an embargo for more than half a century.

"We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful and we have to continue to update our policies," he said at a fundraising event in the Miami area.

"Keep in mind that when Castro came to power I was just born, so the notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today in the age of the Internet, Google and world travel doesn't make sense," he added, referring to Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution.

Incremental changes in U.S. Cuba policy have allowed greater communication with people on the island and the transfer of remittances, Obama said.

"But I think we all understand that ultimately, freedom in Cuba will come because extraordinary activists and the incredible courage of folks like we see here today," he told a small audience at the home of Jorge Mas, a telecommunications equipment executive. "But the United States can help."

A younger generation of U.S. politicians and Americans of Cuban ancestry are likely more open to finding "new mechanisms" to bring about change on the island, he said.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba is controversial internationally and the United Nations in October voted for the 22nd time to condemn it. Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said the fact that the embargo has been in place for more than half a century is "barbaric."

Obama said before taking office that he wanted to recast long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations, but his efforts have been a disappointment to the Cuban government, which hoped he would do more to dismantle the embargo.

U.S. diplomats have said that while the United States welcomes some of the recent changes in Cuba, the country still has one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world.

Even so, the two countries have made small advances toward one another. Diplomats sat down in September to discuss re-establishing direct mail between the United States and Cuba, which has been suspended since 1963.

Obama restarted the talks, along with discussions of immigration issues, in 2009. However the negotiations broke off after Cuba arrested U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years for his role in setting up an underground Internet network.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

US may revise its 50-year old embargo against Cuba
"The Voice of Russia"
The US may revise the currently effective sanctions that Washington slapped on Cuba in 1960.
This came in a statement by the US President Barack Obama during his visit to Florida. "We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful and we have to continue to update our policies," he said.
"And we have to continue to update our policies," said Obama, speaking at a political fundraiser at the home of Jorge Mas Santos, head of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF).
Obama said that the embargo against Cuba imposed more than 50 years ago may not be as effective today, adding that a revision of the US decisions of the 1960s would allow greater communication for the Cubans, the ITAR-TASS news agency reports.
Obama said that a younger generation of Americans is likely more open to finding "new mechanisms" to settle problems in bilateral relations.
The US imposed discriminatory economic sanctions on Cuba after the Fidel Castro government had seized the property of US nationals and corporations in Cuba.
In 1962, the sanctions were toughed to an almost full embargo. The US has made the sanctions removal conditional on Havana’s progress towards democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba, as well as ending Cuba’s military cooperation with other countries.
Addressing Mas Santos, Obama said: "I think that partly because we're of the same generation, we recognize that the aims are always going to be the same. And what we have to do is to continually find new mechanisms and new tools to speak out on behalf of the issues that we care so deeply about."
The CANF is the leading Cuban-American activist group.
It was founded by Mas's father Jorge Mas Canosa, and during the elder Mas's leadership was a bastion of conservative, pro-Republican politics.
The Cuban-born Mas Canosa was a favorite of Ronald Reagan, and visited the White House in the 1980s.However his son, Mas Santos, a successful telecommunications businessman, supported Obama in his presidential bids in 2008 and 2012.
Under Obama, Cuban-Americans can travel and send money to the island more easily, and mail restrictions have been eased.
The two countries however have yet to resume full diplomatic relations.Obama arrived in Miami on Friday after visiting the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and is scheduled to depart on Saturday.
According to the Miami Herald he is in Miami for three political fundraisers.
Voice of Russia, TASS, AFP

The Miami Herald
Posted on Fri, Nov. 08, 2013
‘Incredible night’ as Obama meets Cuban dissidents in Miami

By Juan O. Tamayo

 President Barack Obama told two of Cuba’s leading dissidents in South Florida Friday that he admires their sacrifices, a rare White House recognition of the peaceful opposition on the communist-ruled island.

“The most important thing here was the recognition by the president of the United States, the most powerful democracy in the world,” dissident Guillermo Farinas said minutes after the meeting.

Farinas, spokesman for the Cuban Patriotic Union of Cuba, and Ladies in White leader Berta Soler met with Obama during a fund-raiser at the Pinecrest home of Jorge Mas Santos, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).

Farinas said the two dissidents urged Obama during their private meeting to ensure that any negotiations on the future of Cuba include the opposition on the island as well as exiles.

They also counseled the president to listen to dissidents, because they are the ones who live on the island. Fariñas and Soler have both advocated tough U.S. sanctions on Havana until the government moves toward democracy.

Mas Santos told El Nuevo Herald that the president listened to the dissidents, “encouraged them and spoke of his admiration for their sacrifices.”

Obama’s visit “lasted an hour but seemed like 10 seconds,” said Mas Santos, who hosted one of three Obama fundraisers Friday and Saturday for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Speaking by the pool of Mas Santos’ house, Obama said his policy of supporting civil society in Cuba is beginning to show results, but that Washington must continue to be “creative and thoughtful” in its policies.

Soler wore the traditional white clothes of her group, and Farinas wore a suit and tie with a Band-Aid over the spot on his scalp where he suffered a cut during a beating just last Sunday by a pro-government mob.

Meetings of U.S. presidents with dissidents from any country have been historically rare, although Vice President Joe Biden received Soler in the White House last month.

Both the Ladies in White and Fariñas have won the European Parliament’s top human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of conscience. The women won it in 2005 and Fariñas, who has staged more than 20 hunger strikes to protest abuses, in 2010.

Mas Santos, son of CANF founder Jorge Mas Canosa, has been a strong Obama supporter since his 2008 campaign for the presidency. Conservatives in CANF broke off in 2001, four years after Mas Canosa’s death, and founded the Cuban Liberty Council.

The other Obama fundraisers were being hosted by Leslie Miller Saiontz, a businesswoman and philanthropist who contributed $57,300 in 2012 to various candidates and committees, and Ralph G. Patino, a Coral Gables personal-injury attorney who contributed $88,800 last year to various committees and candidates.

Many donors at the Mas Santos fundraiser moved on later to Tropical Nights, the separate annual fundraiser for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba.

“Unquestionably, this has been an incredible night,” Fariñas said. “This has been a triumph for the entire opposition, above all for democracy in Cuba, for those who are on the island and those outside, those who died trying to get out and those who live outside.”

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