WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says he doesn’t expect the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba to bring overnight change on the island, a quick end to the US economic embargo or the likelihood that he will soon visit the communist nation.
“This is still a regime that represses its people,” Obama said Friday at a year-end news conference two days after the historic announcement that he was moving to end the half century of Cold War acrimony with Havana.
He said he hopes to visit Cuba at some point in his life but that he is not at the stage yet of going or hosting Cuban President Raul Castro in Washington.
Instead, Obama said the change in policy should give the US a greater opportunity to have influence on Cuba and reflects his belief that 50 years of isolation haven’t worked.
“We will be in a position to respond to whatever action they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things that we think are wrong,” Obama said.
He said the four-decade-old embargo should end but he didn’t anticipate it soon. Lifting the embargo must be done by Congress and Obama said it will likely be a while before US lawmakers take up that debate.
Obama said longtime leader Fidel Castro’s name came up only briefly in his phone call this week with Castro’s brother and successor. Obama said he opened the call with about 15 minutes of an opening statement, then apologised for talking so long.