A year ago this month [in December], the United States announced that it would begin to normalize its relations with the Cuban government. At that time, President Barack Obama made it clear that the United States’ aspiration for the Cuban people was for them to enjoy the benefits of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.
As U.S. Charge d’Affaires to Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis expressed, over the past year “our two countries have engaged in historic dialogue on a wide range of issues.” “We have made good progress and come a long way,” he added.
One of President Obama’s goals in announcing a new approach to Cuba was to promote increased authorized travel, commerce, and the flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.
In that regard, said Ambassador DeLaurentis, “we have seen an increase in authorized travel by U.S. citizens by over 50 percent. Our regulatory changes help promote a Cuban private sector that now accounts for at least one in four Cuban workers.”
Additionally, the two governments just concluded a new arrangement on scheduled air service that will further promote authorized travel.
However, areas of disagreement remain on subjects such as human rights.
Respect for universal human rights is one of the enduring national interests of the United States and a centerpiece of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
President Obama has called on the Cuban government to end unnecessary restrictions on the political, social, and economic activities of the Cuban people. The United States has taken a number of steps to support a growing private sector in Cuba and strengthen people-to-people ties.
Even as the United States is making overtures to Cuba in good faith, the United States urges the Cuban government to make it less difficult for its citizens to start businesses, to engage in trade, and access information online such as through promoting the economic opportunities and benefits of the internet to the Cuban people. It is important for the Cuban government to unleash, and not repress, the creative and productive potential of its citizens.
Despite the fundamentally different views the United States and Cuba have toward the ideals of democracy and human rights, the United States believes that engagement, and not isolation, is the most effective way to promote these universal values in Cuba.