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Obama urges `meaningful actions` from Cuba on rights

US President Barack Obama has urged Cuba to extend greater freedoms to its citizens,

Santiago: US President Barack Obama has
urged Cuba to extend greater freedoms to its citizens, in a
sweeping speech on Latin America delivered in Santiago, Chile.

"Cuban authorities must take meaningful actions to
respect the basic rights of the Cuban people -- not because
the United States insists on it, but because the people of
Cuba deserve it," Obama said in an address here on the second
leg of a Latin America tour.

Obama said the United States had taken measures to
improved the long strained relations between Havana and
Washington, including relaxing some decades-old economic

"We`ve made it possible for Cuban-Americans to visit and
support their families in Cuba. We`re allowing Americans to
send remittances that bring some economic hope for people
across Cuba, as well as more independence from Cuban
authorities," he said.

"Going forward, we`ll continue to seek ways to increase
the independence of the Cuban people, who are entitled to the
same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere,"
said Obama during the second stop of Latin America swing that
started in Brazil and is to wrap up this week with a stop in
El Salvador.
The speech comes with US-Cuba relations under strain
after the trial and conviction this month of a US State
Department contractor on subversion charges.

American Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison
on the communist island for allegedly committing "acts against
the independence and territorial integrity of the state."

He was working under contract for the US State Department
when he was arrested in late 2009 for distributing cell phones
and computers to members of the island`s struggling Jewish
community, a verdict that Washington has decried as "an

Meanwhile, Havana is in the process of releasing the last
few of a group of 75 political prisoners detained in a vast
2003 crackdown on political prisoners, in a deal reached with
the help of the Spanish government and the representatives
from the Catholic Church here.


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