Obama: US Seeks 'New Beginning' With Cuba

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States is seeking a "new beginning" with Cuba and is willing to engage the government in Havana on issues ranging from human rights to migration and the economy.

President Obama made the comment Friday in remarks prepared for the opening session of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Obama said he is not interested in talking for the sake of talking, but that he believes U.S.-Cuban relations can be moved in a new direction.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to the island. But the decisions do not lift the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.

Some Latin American leaders are demanding Mr. Obama lift the embargo. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he and his allies will vote against the final declaration of the summit to protest the embargo. Cuba was not invited to the summit.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday the Obama administration views current U.S. policy toward Cuba as having failed.

Clinton, who is joining the president at the summit, said the United States welcomed remarks from Cuban President Raul Castro, who said Havana is prepared to discuss any issue with Washington, including human rights, press freedoms and political prisoners. But the Cuban leader insisted the island be treated as an equal.

Clinton said the U.S. welcomes the overture and that Washington is taking a "very serious" look at it. Her comments came earlier in the Dominican Republic.

The head of the Organization of American States says he will ask his group to re-admit Cuba at the next OAS General Assembly meeting this June in Honduras. Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 after the organization said Cuba's Communist government was incompatible with the OAS charter.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said in a statement Friday that Cuba's full re-integration is a decision for Cuba and all OAS member states to make.

In the Mexican capital Thursday, President Obama said he does not expect relations between the U.S. and Cuba to "thaw overnight" following his decision to relax travel and money transfer restrictions for Cuban-Americans.

In a newspaper editorial Thursday, Mr. Obama said the summit offers the opportunity of "a new beginning" in the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.

Mr. Obama is on his first trip to Latin America since becoming president.

by VOA

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