Obama: US Can Affect Youth in Cuba 12/21 07:39
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama said his plan to normalize
relations with Cuba gives the U.S. a chance to influence events at an important
moment of change for the communist nation, and he brushed off critics who
accuse him of kowtowing to dictators.
Obama said a half-century of trying to push out the Castro government
through isolation has not worked. He said his administration is taking a look
at whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror,
acknowledging that Havana's inclusion makes it difficult for the U.S. to pursue
"If we engage, we have the opportunity to influence the course of events at
a time when there's going to be some generational change in that country,"
Obama told CNN's "State of the Union" in an interview set to air Sunday. "And I
think we should seize it and I intend to do so."
Obama's move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba elicited cheers from
longtime opponents of the strict U.S. position toward Cuba. But his
announcement last week also drew fierce opposition, including from some U.S.
lawmakers in both parties who said Obama failed to win any commitments from
Cuba to democratize before the easing of U.S. penalties and travel restrictions.
On Saturday, Cuban opposition leaders in Miami joined Cuban-American
politicians and activists, pledging to oppose Obama's plan.
Cuban President Raul Castro, speaking to his National Assembly, said that
Cuba would not renounce its communist system despite the normalization of ties
with the U.S. He paraded three convicted spies just released from U.S. prison,
and they shook their fists in victory in front of parliament.
Obama said it's wrong to accuse him of letting dictators outmaneuver him,
citing Russian President Vladimir Putin as an example. After all, Russia's
currency is now collapsing under the weight of U.S. and European penalties, he
"There is this knee-jerk sense, I think, on the part of some in the foreign
policy establishment that, you know, shooting first and thinking about it
second projects strength," Obama said.
"We have been very firm with respect to those countries that we think are
violating international law or are acting against our interests. But I have
been consistent in saying that where we can solve problems diplomatically, we
should do so."