White House Lifts Some Cuba Restrictions / Cuba's Castro Will Not Ask U.S. 'For Handout'
(NSI News Source Info) HAVANA - April 15, 2009: Fidel Castro said in his regular column on the Cubadebate website that Cuba wanted an end to the U.S. embargo, imposed some fifty years ago on the country, and has no plans "to ask the U.S. for handouts." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (R) speaks alongside Dan Restrepo, director of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, on US President Barack Obama's decision to ease restrictions of travel and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 13, 2009. The former Cuban leader made the comments following an announcement by the U.S. administration lifting a ban on travel and money transfers for Cuban-Americans. In his article, the 82-year-old said he approved of Obama's willingness to hold dialogue and his desire to change the policies and the image of the United States. However, Castro expressed his displeasure that "the strictest measures in the blockade have not been mentioned at all." Castro also wrote that the Cuban leadership is ready for talks with the U.S., but only if they are held with "strict respect of the sovereignty" of both countries. He also stressed that Cuba was ready to endure any future embargo if necessary. "Cuba has withstood and will continue to withstand [U.S. embargoes]...and will continue to move forward with its head held high and will never hold out its hands to ask for charity," he said, adding "[Cuba] continues to cooperate with the friendly nations of Latin America and the Caribbean whether there is a summit of the Americas or not, whether Obama leads the U.S. or not, be it a man or woman, white or black, running the nation." The Summit of the Americas is scheduled April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago and will be Obama's first meeting with Latin American leaders with the exception of the Cuban leadership, which is the only country not invited. Many Latin American leaders have said they plan to raise the issue of the embargo during the summit. Florida's Republican Senator Mel Martinez, who is a Cuban American, has called the new policy "good news for Cuban families separated by a lack of freedom in Cuba." The Bush administration limited travel to Cuba to two weeks every three years for immediate family members, changing the visitation from once a year that then president Clinton enforced. Bush also imposed further restrictions on money transfers to immediate family to no more than $300 per quarter. Travel by Americans who do not have relatives in Cuba is still subject to a ban, but there are several exemptions, including for journalists, academics and people on humanitarian missions. About 1.5 million Americans have relatives in Cuba.