SANTIAGO, (Reuters) – Several South American defence ministers yesterday urged President Barack Obama to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, saying such a move was crucial to improve U.S. ties with the region.
Ministers from the 12-country-strong Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, said the issue would shape future relations with Washington.
“It is important for the United States to change its policy toward Cuba to have a good relationship with South America,” Brazil’s Nelson Jobim told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation last month to ease restrictions on trade with Cuba and family travel to the island.
Supporters hoped the congressional action would be a first step toward reviewing and possibly reversing the decades-old U.S. policy of shunning Cuba.
Obama has made clear he favors relaxing limits on family travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba, although he has said the U.S. trade embargo should stay in place to press for democratic reforms.
“With the new president of the United States, we see favourable conditions for this unjust and discriminatory situation to end,” said Argentine Defense Minister Nilda Garre.
Other countries attending the meeting were Peru, Ecuador, Guyana, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Surinam.