Obama invokes ‘future of hope’ for Cuban people

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BBC News reports on President Barack Obama’s ground-breaking visit to Cuba and his unprecedented live television address, delivered from the Grand Theatre in Havana. In a moving speech invoking a “future of hope,” he urged Cubans “to ‘leave the ideological battles of the past behind’ and to define themselves not through their opposition to the U.S. but just as Cubans.”

[. . .] Mr Obama said he had come to Cuba “to bury the last remnants of the Cold War” after decades of conflict. He told Cuban President Raul Castro that he did not need to fear a threat from the US nor from “the voice of the Cuban people”. Mr Obama is the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 88 years.

[. . .] In his keynote speech on the last day of his three-day visit to Communist-run Cuba, Mr Obama said it was time for the United States and Cuba to leave the past behind and make a “journey as friends and as neighbours and as family, together” towards a brighter future. [. . .]

The speech in the theatre was vintage Obama – it had a narrative, starting with the earlier, dark years of US-Cuban relations that date back to the 1950s.

It also had personal elements – he said he was born in the year of the Bay of Pigs, and that afterwards the world nearly came to an end. Finally it had evocative language – “I know the history, but refuse to be trapped by it” – and a few jokes. And it built up to his larger point, which was his message for the Cuban people – choose democracy. It isn’t perfect but it’s the best system there is. He was a powerful speaker in the theatre, and he gave a speech that was eloquent and moving. “For all the politics, people are people and Cubans are Cubans,” he said.

He said the time had come for US policy towards Cuba to change because it had not worked and was outmoded, a remnant of the Cold War. He also called for the lifting of the 54-year old US trade embargo against Cuba, a remark which was met by loud applause. The embargo remains one of the main sticking points in US-Cuban relations but can only be lifted by the US Congress.

[. . .] He insisted that the United States would respect the two nations’ differences and would not attempt to impose changes on the communist-run island. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35874559

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