WASHINGTON — The White House vowed to do everything it can to “chart a new course” in relations with Cuba in unilateral action that anti-Castro lawmakers feared was on the horizon.
Speaking from the Cabinet Room in a noontime address, President Obama said he would “chart a new course” and “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” with his directives on Cuba policy.
Obama charts new course with Cuba by unilaterally changing diplomatic relationship with Cuba. Obama noted the U.S. has long established relations with China and Vietnam, arguing with that example there’s no excuse not to have relations with a communist nation.
“I’ve been prepared to take additional steps for some time,” Obama said, noting that the five-year imprisonment of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross “stood in the way.”
Obama said he ordered Secretary of State John Kerry to “immediately” begin talks to normalize relations with Cuba, adding that the U.S. will open an embassy in Havana and “high-level officials” will visit Cuba soon.
“I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement,” he argued.
The president also said the U.S. agreed to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. “At a time when we are focused on threats from al-Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction,” he said. Cuba has been on the list since 1982.
Obama said he would authorize “increased transactions” with Cuba, including making it easier for U.S. exporters to send goods to Cuba and increased telecommunications between the two countries.
“These are steps that I can take as president,” he said, adding that he’ll engage in an “honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo” with Congress.
“I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans,” Obama said, but said he does “not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades.”
He also panned the idea of changes in Cuba coming through regime change, saying “lasting transformation” would be difficult if Cubans were “subjected to chaos.”