Obama extends offer of peaceful future to Cuba

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke for about 40 minutes in the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, where he was greeted by his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, and by wide applause as he took his place on stage.

After expressing his solidarity for the terrorist attacks which took place in Brussels on Tuesday morning, Obama gave a gesture of peace, in honor to Jose Marti, which drew widespread applause from the audience.

(SOUNDBITE) Barack Obama, President of the United States
“Cultivo una rosa blanca.” In his most famous poem, Jose Marti made this offering of friendship and peace to both his friend and his enemy. Today, as the President of the United States of America, I offer the Cuban people el saludo de paz.

The president acknowledged that the island is just 90 miles from Florida, but that a long distance had been caused by historical and ideological barriers. A sea that American warships have sailed to control its Caribbean neighbor and where Cuban migrants have launched in boats in search of opportunities.

(SOUNDBITE) Barack Obama, President of the United States
As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo. It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people. It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba. It’s time to lift the embargo. But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba. It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba. A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba. Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn. The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

According to Obama, the direct exchange between Americans and Cubans is one of the keys to strengthening bilateral ties. The US president also presented his ideas on how to overcome more than half a century of estrangement and discord, while presenting his vision for the island.

Obama stated in Havana that he was confident that Cuba’s future was in the hands of its people and that they would take the right decisions about their future.

Obama added that while deep differences remain between the U.S. and Cuba on areas such as democracy and human rights, deep common passions unite their peoples and their governments.

Obama brought a greeting of peace, promising nonintervention and openness in business and a focus on similarities instead of differences. This was a message expected by Cubans, Americans and the entire world.

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