Prominent members of Cuban society who attended President Obama’s keynote address say they are pleased with the president’s message that the U.S. is a friend in helping the nation’s transition, but they also stress that change will come at a pace set by Cuba, not the United States.
“I think it’s very important that President Obama has recognized the accomplishments of the Cuban people,” says Heriberto Feraudy, a writer.
Feraudy is emphasizing that Raul and Fidel Castro have both already said they would make whatever changes were necessary for the country.
Gladys Abreu, head of the Cuban Society of Pediatrics says Obama “has delivered us a message of collaboration between the two people, and we agree with that.”
She says Obama’s calls for change won’t change the pace of reforms. Still, the message that the U.S is no longer a threat is welcome.
“We’re on the path. That path will be easier if there isn’t confrontation,” Abreu said.
President Barack Obama is praising a group of Cuban dissidents for showing “extraordinary courage.”
Obama is meeting with a group of about a dozen activists at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
He is noting that the group represented various causes and some in the room have been detained by government authorities — “some in the past, some very recently.” Some have broad concerns about democracy and “the ability to speak freely, worship freely.” He says: “It requires, often times, great courage to be active in civic life here in Cuba.”
The group includes journalist Miriam Celaya, attorney Laritza Diversent and activist Manuel Cuesta and Jose Daniel Ferrer.
Obama says the U.S.-Cuba policy is about engaging people directly. He says he hopes “that by listening and hearing” from Cuban people that U.S. policy will help them “live freely and with prosperity.”
He says: “Much of this is a matter of us being able to hear directly from the Cuban people and making sure that they have a voice and making sure that their concerns and their ideas are helping to shape U.S. policy.”