Obama challenges Cuba with call for democracy

Mar 23, 2016, 1:30 AM EDT
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet well-wishers in Cuba.
(Source: Oaxaca Capital/flickr)

U.S. President Barack Obama challenged Cuba's Communist government with an impassioned call for democracy and economic reforms on Tuesday, addressing the Cuban people directly in a historic speech broadcast throughout the island.

Reuters reports:

Taking the stage at Havana’s Grand Theater with President Raul Castro in attendance, Obama said he was in Cuba to extend a hand of friendship and "bury the last remnant" of the Cold War in the Americas. But he also pressed hard for economic and political reforms and greater openness in a one-party state where the government stifles dissent, Internet access is low and the media is in state hands. His speech was the high point of a 48-hour trip made possible by his agreement with Castro in December 2014 to cast aside decades of hostility that began soon after Cuba's 1959 revolution, and work to normalize relations.

The BBC writes:

He said the time had come for U.S. 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. But he also said he believed that citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear and to choose their government in free elections.