President Raúl Castro commented that in the 15 months which have transpired since plans to reestablish diplomatic relations were announced, concrete results have been achieved, and that he was pleased to welcome President Obama, 88 years since the last U.S. head of state visited the island.
He highlighted some of the successful cooperative efforts undertaken by the two countries, including those in the areas of telecommunications, heath care, and the environment, as well as the joint work carried out combating the Ebola and Zika viruses.
In reference to steps Obama has taken to modify aspects of the blockade, Raúl described these as “positive but insufficient,” emphasizing that the policy remains in force and has intimidating and extraterritorial effects.
Obama, for his part, thanked the Cuban people for the welcome he and his family have received, and commented that seeing a U.S. President in Cuba was once unthinkable, but that, “This is a new day.”
He emphasized his recognition that the destiny of Cuba will be decided by the Cuban people and no one else.
Obama noted that relations between the two countries are not going to change overnight, but that, with mutual respect, the two countries can work to improve the lives of both peoples, while expressing difference frankly.
In response to a question, President Obama said that the two countries have different government systems and economies, in addition to a long history of profound differences, but that, “We are moving forward and not looking backward.”