Obama and Castro take next steps to normalize U.S.-Cuba ties

By Catholic News Service

PANAMA CITY (CNS) — An hourlong meeting April 11 between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first such personal encounter between the leaders of the two neighboring countries since 1958.

The session held during the Summit on the Americas, in which Cuba participated for the first time, was the most visible step toward ending a half century of strained relations dating back to the Cuban revolution.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, extended Pope Francis’ greetings to the gathering. His presence at the summit served as a reminder of the pope’s hand in encouraging Obama and Castro to restore diplomatic relations, ending the decades-long U.S. embargo of the nation that sits 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.

In remarks to reporters April 11, Obama said he and Castro have concluded "that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility." Over time, he added, "it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries."

Castro spoke at length in formal remarks at the summit, in part listing what Cubans have considered U.S. offenses against his country, but then agreeing with everything Obama said. He said while the two nations have "agreed to disagree" sometimes, Cuba is willing to take up any topic of stress between the two countries, including human rights and press freedom.

Obama said the Cold War "has been over for a long time," and that "I’m not interested in having battles frankly that started before I was born."

Obama and Castro in December simultaneously announced the estranged nations would re-establish diplomatic relations. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 first imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in reaction to the repression and human rights abuses which followed the Marxist revolution that put Fidel Castro in power the previous year.

In 2009, Obama became the first president to substantially loosen restrictions, making it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba for family and cultural visits and allowing U.S. citizens to send more money to their relatives there. Cuba, for its part, has in the last few years begun to allow privately owned businesses, now permits people to own, buy and sell their homes and automobiles, and stopped requiring permission from the government to leave the country.

In announcing the moves toward normalized relations in December, Castro and Obama acknowledged the role the Vatican had played in what turned out to have been 18 months of secret negotiations.

Obama said during the Panama summit that he had a State Department report awaiting his return to Washington about whether the U.S. should remove Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

Although Obama can renew diplomatic relations, reopen the U.S. Embassy in Havana and remove Cuba from the list of terrorism sponsors, only Congress can end the trade embargo that blocks most financial transactions between the two countries and makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to travel there for business or tourism.


Copyright ?2015 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS ? 3211 Fourth St NE ? Washington DC 20017 ? 202.541.3250


Copyright © 2024 Catholic News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

No, Thanks


eNewsletter