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US must update its Cuba policy, Obama says

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Freedom in Cuba will come from the work of activists, Obama said, but the United States can help in “creative” and “thoughtful” ways.

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 8, 2013 (AFP, Jewel Samad)

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 8, 2013 (AFP, Jewel Samad)

AFP- The United States must continue to update its policy towards communist Cuba, President Barack Obama said late Friday, speaking at the home of a prominent Cuban-American activist.

Freedom in Cuba will come from the work of activists, Obama said, but the United States can help in “creative” and “thoughtful” ways.

“And we have to continue to update our policies,” said Obama, speaking at a political fundraiser at the home of Jorge Mas Santos, head of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF).

“Keep in mind that when Castro came to power, I was just born. So the notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel doesn’t make sense.”

Washington broke diplomatic ties with Havana in 1961, after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and nationalized US-owned properties. An official embargo was imposed in 1962.

Addressing Mas Santos, Obama said: “I think that partly because we’re of the same generation, we recognize that the aims are always going to be the same. And what we have to do is to continually find new mechanisms and new tools to speak out on behalf of the issues that we care so deeply about.”

The CANF is the leading Cuban-American activist group. It was founded by Mas’s father Jorge Mas Canosa, and during the elder Mas’s leadership was a bastion of conservative, pro-Republican politics.

The Cuban-born Mas Canosa was a favourite of Ronald Reagan, and visited the White House in the 1980s.

However his son, Mas Santos, a successful telecommunications businessman, supported Obama in his presidential bids in 2008 and 2012.

Under Obama, Cuban-Americans can travel and send money to the island more easily, and mail restrictions have been eased. The two countries however have yet to resume full diplomatic relations.

Obama arrived in Miami on Friday after visiting the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and is scheduled to depart on Saturday. According to the Miami Herald he is in Miami for three political fundraisers.


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