Obama urges ‘meaningful actions’ from Cuba on rights

Barack Obama with Chilean president – © AFP Saul Loeb


SANTIAGO (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Monday 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 improve the long strained relations between Havana and Washington, including relaxing some decades-old economic sanctions.

“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 injustice.”

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.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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