U.S. President Barack Obama says old grievances in the Western Hemisphere should be set aside, and he promised to seek a new beginning in relations with Cuba and new partnerships throughout the region.
President Obama made his remarks Friday at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. He said the nations of the Americas have a responsibility to see their people have the ability to pursue dreams in democratic societies. Mr. Obama said the United States is willing to engage the government of Cuba on issues ranging from human rights to migration and the economy.
Mr. Obama has lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to the island, but he has not lifted the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega blasted the embargo during the summit and noted Cuba's exclusion from the gathering. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also called for the embargo to be lifted.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he and his allies will vote against the final declaration of the summit to protest the embargo. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday the Obama administration views current U.S. policy toward Cuba as having failed. Clinton, who is joining the president at the summit, said the United States welcomed remarks from Cuban President Raul Castro, who said Havana is prepared to discuss any issue with Washington, including human rights, press freedoms and political prisoners.
The head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, says he will ask his group to re-admit Cuba at the next OAS General Assembly meeting this June in Honduras. Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 after the organization said Cuba's Communist government was incompatible with the OAS charter. Besides Cuba, Mr. Obama announced a U.S. initiative to boost lending and spur economic growth and recovery in the Americas. He also proposed a hemispheric partnership to tackle energy and climate challenges. Mr. Obama is on his first trip to Latin America and the Caribbean since becoming president.