Cuba must reform before US eases stance – Obama

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is ready to change its stern policy toward Cuba but has not seen steps from Havana that would justify lifting its embargo, President Barack Obama said yesterday.
Obama said he did not want to be “stuck in a Cold War mentality” and that Washington had sought to improve ties by changing rules about remittances and travel but was waiting for signals from Cuba such as the release of political prisoners and guarantees of basic human rights.

He urged the communist-run Caribbean island, under a US embargo for the last five decades, to join the wave of democratic change sweeping the Arab world and that ousted most authoritarian rulers in Latin America in decades past.

“The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba,” Obama said in a question and answer session with US Hispanic media. “If we see positive movement then we will respond in a positive way.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called Obama’s remarks “old and repetitive” in response to questions from reporters in Brasilia yesterday.

Rodriguez said Cuba maintains its commitment to normalize relations with the United States, but Washington has not responded to Cuban offers of cooperation in fighting drug trafficking, terrorism and natural disasters.
“There is always an abyss between statements from President Obama and reality,” Rodriguez said.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused Obama on Monday of talking “gibberish” in his recent speech to the United Nations and said NATO’s actions in Libya were a “monstrous crime.”

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