During the first family’s historic visit to Cuba on Monday, the Cuban president confronted President Barack Obama about the crippling trade embargo and called on him to “return the territory illegally occupied by Guantánamo Base.”
At an afternoon press conference in Havana, the two leaders touted the “concrete” achievements made since the countries resumed diplomatic relations in December 2014.
“In the 15 months that have passed since the decision was made to establish diplomatic relations, we have achieved concrete results,” declared President Raúl Castro. These include resuming direct postal exchanges, and signing agreements to resume commercial flights, govern maritime environments, and pending deals regarding agriculture, drug trafficking, medicine, and other “commercial operations,” such as telecommunications.
However, Castro added, “Much more could be done if the U.S. blockade were lifted.”
Fifty-five percent of Americans said they support ending the 54-year-old trade embargo, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Monday. A full 58 percent support the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Castro acknowledged that Obama’s “repeated appeals to Congress to have [the blockade] removed” have been ignored. But, Castro said, the measures adopted thus far “are positive but insufficient” and volunteered “other steps that could be taken to remove restrictions that remain in force and make a significant effect in the reduction of the blockade.”
“The blockade remains in force and it contains discouraging elements and intimidating effects and [is guilty of] extraterritorial outreach,” Castro stated.
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