Castro and Obama ready to move toward normalization of ties

The presidents of Cuba and the US, Raul Castro, and Barack Obama, in Havana stated their willingness to move toward normalization of bilateral relations based on respect and national sovereignty.

At a press conference after official talks at the Palace of the Revolution, Castro hailed the agreements signed between the two countries since the start of the thaw in December 2014, and announced others to be signed on Monday, establishing new fields of cooperation in agriculture and against diseases such as cancer and zika.

(Soundbite, Spanish) Raul Castro, President of Cuba
“Today, I affirm that we must put into practice the art of civilized coexistence. This means accepting and respecting differences and not making them the center of our relationship. We must promote links that favor both countries and peoples while focusing on what unites us and not what divides us. ”

However, the Cuban president was emphatic in calling for an end end the economic, financial and commercial blockade dictated by the U.S. since 1962, and which reains in force despite the restoration of bilateral ties, on 20 July.

In this regard, Obama acknowledged that “what we did for over half a century was not good for the United States or Cuba,” and said that the blockade “must end”, although the decision is in the hands of the Republican-held Congress.

(SOUNDBITE, inglés) Barack Obama, U.S. President
“Our growing engagement with Cuba is guided by one overarching goal, advancing the mutual interest of our two countries, including improving the lives of our people, both Cubans and Americans. That’s why I’m here. I’ve said consistently after more than five very difficult decades, the relationship between our governments will not be transformed overnight. We continue, as President Castro indicated, to have some very serious differences, including on democracy and human rights.

Obama, who is on a historic three-day visit to Cuba, stated that “the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans and not by anybody else.”

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