In a new chapter for Cuban American relations, I intend to normalize relations between the two countries. There is a long and complicated history between the US and Cuba, connected to the “Cold War” against Communism. The exile community has made important contributions to the US, and has created a unique connection: friend and foe. The US has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba all these decades through a policy of isolation—but to little effect. Neither country has been served well by this obsolete policy. Consider China and Viet Nam.
When I came into office, I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy. Significant steps have been taken—to good effect. The release of Alan Gross and a captured intelligent agent have eliminated an obstacle to establishing full diplomatic relations. We will now advance our shared interests where we can—for instance, health, migression, and counterterrorism. We will continue to discuss areas where we disagree. We are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba. For example, it will now be much easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. I will work with Congress to try to end the official embargo. The United States still wants to see Cubans enjoy more freedom, but engagement is the way forward.
I respect the values of those who oppose these steps, but I think we need to change policies that have not worked for 50 years. We understand the reasons why some Cubans are suspicious about US motives. But we truly want to make the lives of Cubans better. I think those who have supported the changes I am making—especially His Holiness Pope Francis. We are prepared to have Cuba join Summit of the Americas. We can leave behind the legacies of both colonialism and communism and the tyranny of drug cartels and dictators. A look at Miami—a Latin American and an American city—reminds us of our strong bonds and inspires us to cut loose the shackles of the past