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Obama: We Will Begin to Normalize Relationships with Cuba

Obama: We Will Begin to Normalize Relationships with Cuba

Wednesday President Obama announce the U.S. will normalize relations with Cuba.

Transcript as follows:

We will end an outdated approach that for decades is failed to advance our interests. Instead we will begin to normalize our relations between our two countries. Through the changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people. And begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas. There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion which tries to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the cold war, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries. Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country. In politics, in business, culture, and sports. Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. 

All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, once family and foe. Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We’ve done so primarily through policies that aim to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy any place else. And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government for rationals on its people. 

Today Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the communist party that came to power half a century ago. Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by the rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. Considered that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China, a far larger country also governed bay communist party. Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam where we fought a with a that are claimed more Americans than any cold war confrontation. That’s why, when I came into office, I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy. As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel instead of it remittances to their families in Cuba. These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban-Americans have been reunited with their families. And are the best possible ambassadors for our values. And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban-Americans is increasingly questioned in an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off for an interconnected world. 

While I’ve been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way. The wrongful imprisonment of Alan Gross for five years. Over many months, my administration has held discussions about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship. His holiness pope francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s president Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interests in the release of three Cuban agents who’ve been jailed in the United States for over 15 years. Today, Alan returned home. Reunited with his family at long last. Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds. Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba. And who has been in prison for nearly two decades. This man who sacrifice has b known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today as well as other spies in the United States. This man is now safely on our shores. Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, i’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy. First, I’ve instructed secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations severed since January of 1961.

I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century. To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and demoacy. The question is, how we uphold that commitment. I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. Moreover it does not serve America’s interests or the Cuban people to try to push Cuba towards collapse. Even if that worked, and it hasn’t for 50 years, we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos. 

We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential on 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. Sanctions to add to the burden of cuban citizens that we seek to help. To the Cuban people, america extends a hand of friendship. Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. Others have seen us as a former come onizer content on controlling your future. Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, today, I’m being honest with you. We can never erase the history between us, but we shall that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination. 

Cubans have a saying about daily life. It’s not easy. Today the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier. More free. More prosperous. To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts. In particular, I want to thank his Holiness Pope Francis whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is. The government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government,nd a bipartisan group of congressmen who’ve worked tirelessly for alan gross’s release and a new approach of advancing our interests and values in cuba. 

Finally, our shift in policy towards cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas. This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us. So that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future. And I call on all my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment of democracy and human rights at the heart of the inner America charter. Let us leave behind the legacy of both come colonization and communism. The tyranny of drug cartels, dictators, and sham elections. A future of greater peace, security, and democratic development is possible, if we work together. Not to maintain power, not to secure vested interests, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens. 

My fellow americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana. Countless thousands of Cubans have come to miami on planes, makeshift rafts, some with little, but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts. Today, Miami is often referred to as the capitol of Latin America. But it is also a profoundly American city, a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin or the circumstances of our birth. A demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the south. Change is hard, in our own lives and in the lives of nations, and change is even harder when we carry the heavy weigh of history on our shoulders. But today, we areing these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, reach for a better future. For the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world. Thank you. God bless you, and god bless the United States of America.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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