S. American ministers urge US to end Cuba embargo

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.

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