HAVANA. – While US President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba is seen as a major step in a thaw of relations between the two countries, the embargo, together with other disputes, still divides the two governments.
Cuban leader Raul Castro on Monday thanked Obama for his help in improving bilateral relations, but warned that the embargo is still in the way of the normalisation of ties.
“The blockade remains in force. It contains discouraging elements and intimidating effects,” said Castro.
“Much more could be done if the blockade was lifted,” he said, adding that measures taken by the Obama administration are positive but insufficient.
Much of the openness, commercial progress and political future envisioned by Obama will continue to be stymied as long as the embargo remains in place, said Castro.
The Cuban leader also lambasted Washington for its continued intervention in Cuban affairs, saying that “nobody should demand that the Cuban people renounce their freedom and sovereignty”.
“The future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.”
In response, Obama pledged that the embargo is going to end and reiterated his demand for the Republican-held Congress to lift the blockade.
The United States wants to be Cuba’s partner and the best way to help the island country is to lift the economic blockade in place since 1962, Obama told a business forum on Monday in Havana.
“The US wants to be your partner. Our companies have come here to do business,” he said. Obama’s goal to deepen commercial ties with Cuba may gain some advance as leaders of both public and private businesses from Cuba met with their US counterparts at the forum.
Organised by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, the forum gave US businessmen the chance to learn about investment opportunities in Cuba and to network with Cuban companies. Cuban Chamber of Commerce president Orlando Hernandez expressed the hope that US companies would pressure Congress for the lifting of the embargo, which, he said, cripples business in both directions. – Xinhua.
Obama’s visit to Cuba, the first by a sitting US president since 1928, culminates efforts of Obama and Castro since they agreed in December 2014 to normalise relations after five decades of hostility between the two countries. – Xinhua