Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A note from Barack following his trip to #Cuba

It's been nearly 90 years since a U.S. President visited Cuba. And for the past half century, the sight of an American president in Havana would have been unimaginable.

But this week, because we're working to normalize our relations with Cuba, I was able to cross the Florida Straits and meet with and listen to the Cuban people. They told me about their hopes and their struggles, and we talked about what we can do together to help Cubans improve their lives.

What I saw and heard this week will stay with me forever.

I'll remember the beauty of Cuba and the pride Cubans take in their culture. On our first night, Michelle, Malia and Sasha and I walked around Old Havana, where every building, path, and plaza seems filled with the spirit and storied history of the Cuban people. We had a wonderful dinner at one of Havana's paladares, the often family-run restaurants where Americans and Cubans can meet and talk over some tostones.

I'll remember the innovative spirit of Cuba's entrepreneurs, especially the cuentapropistas who are running their own small businesses like bed and breakfasts, beauty parlors, barber shops and taxi services. These men and women, many of them young, are the face of Cuba's small but growing private sector, and I was proud to announce new partnerships to help them start and grow their businesses. That includes helping more Cubans connect to the Internet and the global economy.

I'll remember the courage of the Cuban human rights advocates I met, many of whom have been harassed, detained or imprisoned simply for standing up for the equal rights and dignity of every Cuban. They told me about their work to advance freedom of speech, assembly, the press and religion, and I promised them that the United States will continue to stand up for universal human rights in Cuba as we do around the world.

I'll remember the passion of the Cuban people, especially when it comes to our shared love of baseball—la pelota. At Havana's ballpark, President Castro and I watched as the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban national team, the first professional baseball game between our countries in 17 years. Let me just say that tens of thousands of Cuban fans cheering for their team is...intense. But when we all stood for our national anthems, it was an unforgettable moment that reminded us of the friendship and mutual respect between the American people and the Cuban people.

Perhaps most of all, I'll remember the Cubans who lined the streets, mile after mile, to greet us. They were men, women and children, smiling, waving, snapping pictures. Some were even waving American flags—another sight that not long ago would have been unimaginable. In the faces of these Cubans I saw hope for a brighter future.

The Cuban people are ready for a new relationship between our two countries. The majority of Americans—including many Cuban Americans—support our new approach as well. It won't be easy. The long road ahead will see progress and setbacks. But the Cubans I met this week reaffirmed my hope that we can succeed, together.

I believe in the Cuban people - creo en el pueblo Cubano.

Barack (via Facebook)

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