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Obama courts Cubans in Havana trip, speech

Keith Whittemore
Mesa Legend

keithPresident Barack Obama landed in Havana, Cuba on Sunday, March 20 as part of a diplomatic visit to the island nation.Obama, the first U.S. president to set foot in Cuba in almost 90 years, began his trip with a sightseeing tour of old Havana with his family Sunday afternoon. The next day, the president visited the memorial of Cuban national hero José Martí, followed in the afternoon by meetings with Cuban president Raúl Castro and other officials and in the evening with a state dinner. The culmination of the trip came on Tuesday morning, when president Obama addressed the Cuban people in a speech at Havana’s Gran Teatro. “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” the president said in his speech. “I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.”

Obama visited Havana, Cuba from March 20-22. The president’s administration has recently begun to work with Cuba’s government to “thaw” relations that have been stagnant for five decades.
Obama visited Havana, Cuba from March 20-22. The president’s administration has recently begun to work with Cuba’s government to “thaw” relations that have been stagnant for five decades.

During his speech, Obama took a conciliatory tone, playing up the common cultural heritage of the two countries. The president also acknowledged perceived failures in America’s policy toward Cuba. “What the United States was doing was not working,” Obama said. “We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth. A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century.” The president even stated his intention for dropping the U.S. embargo against the island nation, which has been in place since 1960. “It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people.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,” he said. “It’s time to lift the embargo.”

Obama was cautious in his criticisms of the Cuban regime, but did express concerns about political and economic rights in Cuba. “I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear – to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully,” the president said. “And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.” Obama concluded by emphasizing citizens’ role in changing the regime.“El futuro de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano,” he said in Spanish: “The future of Cuba must be in the hands of the Cuban people.”

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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