Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama says U.S. needs to update policies on Cuba

    Obama says U.S. needs to update policies on Cuba
    MIAMI Fri Nov 8, 2013 10:05pm EST

    (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Friday that it may be time
    for the United States to revise its policies toward Cuba, against which
    it has had an embargo for more than half a century.

    “We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful and we have to
    continue to update our policies,” he said at a fundraising event in the
    Miami area.

    “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,
    Google and world travel doesn’t make sense,” he added, referring to
    Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution.

    Incremental changes in U.S. Cuba policy have allowed greater
    communication with people on the island and the transfer of remittances,
    Obama said.

    “But I think we all understand that ultimately, freedom in Cuba will
    come because extraordinary activists and the incredible courage of folks
    like we see here today,” he told a small audience at the home of Jorge
    Mas, a telecommunications equipment executive. “But the United States
    can help.”

    A younger generation of U.S. politicians and Americans of Cuban ancestry
    are likely more open to finding “new mechanisms” to bring about change
    on the island, he said.

    The U.S. embargo against Cuba is controversial internationally and the
    United Nations in October voted for the 22nd time to condemn it. Cuban
    Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said the fact that the embargo has
    been in place for more than half a century is “barbaric.”

    Obama said before taking office that he wanted to recast long-hostile
    U.S.-Cuba relations, but his efforts have been a disappointment to the
    Cuban government, which hoped he would do more to dismantle the embargo.

    U.S. diplomats have said that while the United States welcomes some of
    the recent changes in Cuba, the country still has one of the most
    restrictive economic systems in the world.

    Even so, the two countries have made small advances toward one another.
    Diplomats sat down in September to discuss re-establishing direct mail
    between the United States and Cuba, which has been suspended since 1963.

    Obama restarted the talks, along with discussions of immigration issues,
    in 2009. However the negotiations broke off after Cuba arrested U.S.
    contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years for his
    role in setting up an underground Internet network.

    (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

    Source: “Obama says U.S. needs to update policies on Cuba | Reuters” –