HAVANA (AP) — President Barack Obama says he and Cuban President Raul Castro had a “frank and candid conversation” on human rights and democracy, and are making progress in tearing down barriers between the two nations.
In extended remarks after the first private meeting between the leaders, Obama declared it a “new day” in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
The president noted the two nations have “very serious differences,” particularly on areas regarding freedom of speech, assembly and religious liberty. But Obama says he believes the two governments are capable of having a “constructive dialogue.”
Obama noted success in increasing travel between the nations, increased trade and tourism. He says he’s working to ease the path for joint corporate ventures and hiring more Cubans in the U.S.
Obama sought to reassure Cubans wary of the return of U.S. engagement. He says: “Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation. … The future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans not by anybody else.”