WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says a softening of U.S. policy toward Cuba depends on signs that the island’s communist government is “serious” about reform.
“Any release of political prisoners, any economic liberalization that takes place in Cuba is positive, positive for Cuban people, but we’ve not yet seen the full results of these promises,” Obama said Tuesday in a White House session with Efe and other Spanish-language media.
Despite the recent release of 40 jailed dissidents by President Raul Castro’s government, there are still “too many political prisoners who languish in Cuban prisons,” the U.S. leader said.
And while the Cuban government has announced plans to lay off 500,000 state employees and expand opportunities for small business, the island’s economy remains “anchored in the past,” Obama said.
“We want to continue to explore the possibilities of changing relations,” he said, alluding to his decision last year to end restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to their homeland.
“But before we take any more steps, we want to see that the Castro regime is serious about different ways to deal with the situation,” the U.S. president said.
Bipartisan efforts in Congress to liberalize travel to Cuba for all U.S. residents remain on hold, as do attempts to further loosen the 48-year-old economic embargo against the island. EFE