Cuba visit aimed at normalising ties: Barack Obama
President Barack Obama on Saturday said his next month's Cuba visit, the first by a US president in nearly 90 years, will be an opportunity to keep moving forward in normalising ties while discussing serious issues like human rights.
Washington: President Barack Obama on Saturday said his next month's Cuba visit, the first by a US president in nearly 90 years, will be an opportunity to keep moving forward in normalising ties while discussing serious issues like human rights.
"This week, we made it official?I'm going to Cuba. When Michelle and I go to Havana next month, it will be the first visit of a US president to Cuba in nearly 90 years," Obama said in his weekly radio and web address to the nation.
"My visit will be an opportunity to keep moving forward. I'll meet with President Castro to discuss how we can continue normalising relations, including making it easier to trade and easier for Cubans to access the Internet and start their own businesses," Obama said.
"As I did when I met President Castro last year, I'll speak candidly about our serious differences with the Cuban government, including on democracy and human rights. I'll reaffirm that the United States will continue to stand up for universal values like freedom of speech and assembly and religion," said the US President.
He said that engaging with the Cuban people is the best way to advance American interests and values.
"I've always said that change won't come to Cuba overnight. But as Cuba opens up, it will mean more opportunity and resources for ordinary Cubans. And we're starting to see some progress," he said.
In his address, Obama said there is progress in the US-Cuba relationship.
"American companies are starting to do business in Cuba, helping to nurture private enterprise and giving Cuban entrepreneurs new opportunities. With new Wi-Fi hotspots, more Cubans are starting to go online and get information from the outside world,"he said.
In both the countries, he said, there's overwhelming support for this new relationship.
And in Cuba today, for the first time in a half century, there is hope for a different future, especially among Cuba?s young people who have such extraordinary talent and potential just waiting to be unleashed, he noted.
The visit, which is scheduled for March 21-22, is a big step by the Obama administration in ongoing efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.