Capping his remarkable visit to Cuba, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared an end to the “last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas” and openly urged Cubans to pursue a more democratic future for this communist nation about 145km from the Florida coast.
With Cuban President Raul Castro watching from a balcony, Obama said the government should not fear citizens who speak freely and vote for their own leaders.
With Cubans watching on tightly controlled state television, Obama said they would be the ones to determine their country’s future, not the US.
“Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down,” Obama said. “But I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.”
Later, Obama sat beside Castro at a baseball game between Cuba’s beloved national team and the Tampa Bay Rays, a US Major League Baseball team.
Leaving the game early for Jose Marti International Airport, Obama was met there again by Castro who walked him to Air Force One.
They chatted in a relaxed fashion, any awkwardness or tension apparently gone from the previous day’s news conference that saw Castro hit with tough questions from US reporters.
How quickly political change comes to Cuba, if at all, is uncertain. However, the response from at least some Cubans was certain to be seen by Obama as validation of his belief that restoring ties and facilitating more interactions between Cuba and the US is more likely than continued estrangement to spur democracy.
“What the United States was doing was not working,” Obama said.
He reiterated his call for US Congress to lift the economic embargo on Cuba, calling it an “outdated burden on the Cuban people” — a condemnation that was enthusiastically cheered by the crowd at Havana’s Grand Theater.
After arriving on Sunday, Obama plunged into a whirlwind schedule that blended official talks with Castro and opportunities to soak in Cuba’s culture.
He toured historic sites in Old Havana in a rainstorm, ate at one of the city’s most popular privately owned restaurants and joined a big crowd for Tuesday’s baseball game.
The fans roared as Obama and his family entered the stadium, which underwent an extensive upgrade for the game.
Castro joined the Obama family and sat alongside the president behind home plate — one of several moments from the US president’s trip that would have been barely imaginable just months ago.
Obama also met on Tuesday with about a dozen dissidents, praising them for showing “extraordinary courage.”
The group included journalist Miriam Celaya, attorney Laritza Diversent and activists Manuel Cuesta and Jose Daniel Ferrer.
The White House said the meeting was a prerequisite for Obama in coming to Cuba.
Obama’s speech was the first opportunity for Cubans to hear his vision of warming US-Cuban relations as closely linked to Cuba’s internal evolution.
It is a vision of free speech, free assembly and the ability to earn a living without relying on a centrally controlled economy.
The president appeared to deliberately use neutral terms to describe the Cuban state: “A one-party system” and “a socialist economic model” that “has emphasized the role and rights of the state.”
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a