New steps on Cuba depend on its will to change: US

April 19th, 2009 - 8:29 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Port of Spain, April 19 (DPA) The US government stressed Saturday at the Summit of the Americas that any new developments in its policy towards Cuba, as requested by Latin American governments, will depend on the measures taken by Havana.
“We will continue to evaluate and watch what happens. We’re anxious to see what the Cuban government is willing to step up to do,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

At the summit in Trinidad and Tobago, US President Barack Obama Friday promised “a new beginning” in relations between Washington and Havana.

However, Gibbs stressed that the ball was in Cuba’s court. “It always has been,” he said. “The Cuban government was and still is capable of making change.

“The Cuban government can release political prisoners. The Cuban government can stop taking money from remittances,” he added. “They can do more on freedom of the press. There’s a lot that the Cuban government can do to demonstrate its responsibilities and its willingness to change that relationship.”

Obama believes that the US should change its Cuban policy, Gibbs noted, but he said that this not only up to Washington.

“What some in the hemisphere and in this region want is also -has to be up to the actions of the Cuban government,” he said.

Cuba is the only country in the Americas that has no representation at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago, since it was suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962.

“I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues from human rights, free speech, and democratic reform to drugs, migration and economic issues,” Obama said Friday.

The issue of Cuba was not officially on the summit’s agenda, but Latin America has been virtually unanimous in demanding the end of the decades-old US embargo on the communist island.

Earlier this week Obama announced an easing of travel and money restrictions for Cuban Americans. He acknowledged Friday that US policy on Cuba “has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people.”

On Thursday, Cuban President Raul Castro said his government was willing to discuss any topic with Washington, including human rights, freedom of the press and the status of political prisoners.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday praised improving ties between the United States and communist Cuba.

“We have noted with interest the change of direction by the new US administration,” Ban said at the summit. “It is a sign of changing times, of fresh winds blowing, in ways large and small,” he said.

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