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Video: Obama on Cuba: We Will Lift Embargo if Cuban Government Makes Significant Reform

Video: Obama on Cuba: We Will Lift Embargo if Cuban Government Makes Significant Reform

President Obama addressed the Cuban Embargo during a Hispanic Roundtable at the White House Wednesday and he said that he will lift the embargo if the Cuban government will make significant reform.

The video and full-text of that portion of the roundtable is below:

MS. MEDINA: This next question is about Cuba, and it comes from Florida: What is your position regarding Cuba and the embargo? What should the Cuban people expect from you and your government during the remainder of your term, and in the future if you’re reelected?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what we did with respect to Cuba was recognize that the Cuban people now have not enjoyed freedom for 50 years, and everywhere else in the world you’ve been seeing a democratization movement that has been pressing forward. Throughout Latin America, democracies have emerged from previously authoritarian regimes. The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba.

Now, what we’ve tried to do is to send a signal that we are open to a new relationship with Cuba if the Cuban government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country and its own — and provide the space and the respect for human rights that would allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.

I changed the remittance laws so that family members could more easily send money back to Cuba, because that would give them more power and it would create a economic space for them to prosper. Within Cuba we have changed the family travel laws so that they can travel more frequently, as well as laws that relate to educational travel.

And so we’ve made these modifications that send a signal that we’re prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a Cold War mentality dating back to when I was born. On the other hand, we have to see a signal back from the Cuban government that it is following through on releasing political prisoners, on providing people their basic human rights, in order for us to be fully engaged with them. And so far, at least, what we haven’t seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo.

I don’t know what will happen over the next year, but we are prepared to see what happens in Cuba. If we see positive movement we will respond in a positive way. Hopefully, over the next five years, we will see Cuba looking around the world and saying, we need to catch up with history. And as long as I’m President I will always be prepared to change our Cuba policy if and when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people. But that’s always my watchword, is are we seeing freedom for the Cuban people to live lives of opportunity and prosperity. If we are, then we’ll be supportive of them.

MR. LERNER: Those conditions will suffice — human rights, free political prisoners? No demand for a change in the economic structure, for example?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s very hard to separate liberty from some economic reforms. If people have no way to eat other than through the government, then the government ends up having very strict control over them, and they can be punished in all sorts of ways for expressing their own opinions. That’s not to say that a condition for us releasing the embargo would be that they have a perfect market system, because obviously we have trade and exchanges with a number of countries that fall short of a liberal democracy.

But there is a basic, I think, recognition of people’s human rights that includes their right to work, to change jobs, to get an education, to start a business. So some elements of freedom are included in how an economic system works. And right now, we haven’t seen any of that.

But let me just say this. Obviously if we saw a release of political prisoners, the ability for people to express their opinions and to petition their government, if we saw even those steps those would be very significant, and we would pay attention and we would undoubtedly reexamine our overall approach to Cuba if we saw a serious movement in that direction.

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    Jon

    Jon Byington manages the editorial and business operations for DosLives.com. Jon is also on Google +