President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro sat down together on Saturday in the first formal meeting of the two country's leaders in over a half-century, pledging to reach for the kind of peaceful relationship that has eluded their nations for generations.
In a small conference room in a Panama City convention center, the two sat side by side in a bid to inject fresh momentum into their months-old effort to restore diplomatic ties. Reflecting on the historic nature of the meeting, Obama said he felt it was time to try something new and to engage with both Cuba's government and its people.
What we have both concluded is that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility, Obama said. And over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.
Castro, for his part, said he agreed with everything Obama had said, a stunning statement for the Cuban leader. But he added the caveat that they had agreed to disagree at times. Castro said he had told the Americans that Cuba was willing to discuss issues such as human rights and freedom of the press, maintaining that everything can be on the table.
We have disposition to talk about everything — with patience, Castro said in Spanish. Some things we will agree with, and others we won't.
Not since 1958 have a U.S. and Cuban leader convened a substantial meeting; at the time, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and Fulgencio Batista in charge in Cuba. But relations quickly entered into a deep freeze amid the Cold War, and the U.S. spent decades trying to either isolate or actively overthrow the Cuban government.
The historic gathering played out on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, which this year included Cuba for the first time. Although the meeting wasn't publicly announced in advance, White House aides had suggested the two leaders were looking for an opportunity to meet while in Panama and to discuss the ongoing efforts to open embassies in Havana and Washington, among other issues.
At the start of their hour-long meeting, Obama acknowledged that Cuba, too, would continue raising concerns about U.S. policies — earning a friendly smirk from Castro. Obama described the sit-down later as candid and fruitful and said he and Castro were able to speak about their differences in a productive way.
Even still, raw passions were on vivid display earlier in the day when Castro, in a meandering speech to the summit, ran through an exhaustive history of perceived Cuban grievances against the U.S. dating back more than a century.
Then, in an abrupt about face, he apologized for letting his emotions get the best of him. He said many U.S. presidents were at fault for that troubled history — but that Obama isn't one of them.
I have told President Obama that I get very emotional talking about the revolution, Castro said through a translator, noting that Obama wasn't even born when the U.S. began sanctioning the island nation. I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this.
The Cold War has been over for a long time, he said. And I'm not interested in having battles frankly that started before I was born.
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What a lovely photo of Obumma the failed first black President of the USA and Odumber, the millionaire communist murdering bastard of Cuba.Apr 12th, 2015 - 12:29 pm 0
I don't know that Castro and Obama have any major disagreements. Both are power-hungry Marxists; they should have a great deal in common. The only real difference is that Obama tries to hide his beliefs from the public; he could never have been elected to any public office, if people knew who he really is.Apr 12th, 2015 - 04:14 pm 0
BisleyApr 12th, 2015 - 05:10 pm 0
You are a fool if you think Obama is a Marxist.
If you know better, but are just trying to defame him by tarring him with that partisan brush, then you are also irresponsibly dishonest.
As an intelligent educated successful US American, I'm sure Obama wants a strong US Capitalist economy, that can afford to ensure basic healthcare does not bankrupt her citizens, or a lovable minimum wage.
It's been 56 years since the Revolution. The Marxists are dead. The new generation of Cuba knows Communism didn't work - they want the opportunities of the US.
The US wants allies and new markets.
You have the chance to change things at the next election.
In the meantime, you can criticise the wisdom of his policies, but he deserves the respect of his Office - a President elected by a clear majority of citizens.