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You are on the right side of history, Portia tells Obama

Published:Friday | April 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller with United States President Barack Obama at Jamaica House in St Andrew, yesterday.

United States (US) President Barack Obama has indicated that there is a great interest among ordinary Cubans to "put one era behind them" and move into an era which will see them having new relationships with his country and others, reflecting a 21st-century integrated, global economy.

Last December, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the US and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1961.

During a press briefing following a bilateral meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Obama said he would shortly announce whether Cuba is to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

 

CUBA REVIEW COMPLETED

 

"That review has been completed at the State Department," Obama said, while adding that he has not yet seen the recommendations.

"Throughout this process, our emphasis has been on the facts. We want to make sure that - given that this is a powerful tool to isolate those countries which genuinely do support terrorism - when we make those designations, we have strong evidence that, in fact, that is the case. And as circumstances change, that list will change as well," Obama said.

The US president made the announcement on the same day groups calling themselves 'The World Social Movements' wrote an open letter to Obama in the press in which they urged him to rescind the executive order imposed on Venezuela.

The executive order stated that Venezuela presents "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States".

"Such executive order is an act of aggression which violates international law, and it is the most severe attempt to change the democratic will of the Venezuela people," the group said.

 

STEERING CLEAR

 

Obama steered clear of the Venezuela issue, which, like that of Cuba, is likely to be raised during the Summit of the Americas, which starts in Panama today.

On Cuba, Obama said the overall process of establishing diplomatic relations is "proceeding as I expected".

"I never foresaw that immediately overnight everything would transform itself, that suddenly, Cuba became a partner diplomatically with us like the way Jamaica is, for example. That is going to take some time," the president said.

"I do think we will be in a position to move forward on the opening of embassies in [the] respective countries. There are details and negotiations around that," Obama added.

Simpson Miller used yesterday's meeting to thank Obama for the move to normalise relations with Cuba.

"I want to thank the president of the United States for action taken in terms of Cuba and to say to you, Mr President, we are very happy. You are on the right side of history," Simpson Miller said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com