promises more open policy towards Cuba
MIAMI, 25 (AFP) - US Democratic presidential
hopeful Barack Obama on Saturday promised
a more open policy towards Cuba at a packed
campaign rally in Miami, the heart of the
anti-Castro Cuban exile community.
"Just 90 miles from here there is
a country where justice and freedom are
out of reach," Obama told the cheering
crowd packed into a city auditorium.
"That's why my policy toward Cuba
will be guided by one word: Liberty."
Obama heartily criticized US President
George W. Bush, who restricted travel to
Cuba and money remittances to the island
in 2004 with the goal of toppling the communist
regime of President Fidel Castro.
The measures angered the estimated 1.5
million Cubans living in the United States,
many of who strongly oppose Castro but want
to help friends and relatives on the island.
According to the US rules, Cuban-Americans
can travel to Cuba only once every three
years for only for 14 days. It sets a limit
of 100 dollars per months for remittances.
"We've been engaged in a failed policy
with Cuba for the last 50 years," said
Obama. "And we need to change it."
Obama promised "unrestricted rights"
regarding travel and money remittances to
the island for Cuban-Americans.
"It can help make their families less
dependent on Fidel Castro. That's the way
to bring about real change in Cuba,"
Obama said. "It's time we had a president
who realized that."
Obama also said that if elected his government
would not move towards normalizing relations
with Cuba until there were democratic changes
on the island.
Clusters of Cuban-American protesters jeered
Obama. One protester waved a sign that read
"Obama, Miami doesn't want you."
"You have surrendered to Fidel Castro's
policies," another protester screamed
through a loudspeaker.
A Florida International University poll
in March of 1,000 Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade
found that 55 percent backed unrestricted
travel to Cuba, the Miami Herald newspaper
Obama sparked a political firestorm last
month when he said during a televised debate
that he would be willing to meet with the
leaders of US foes such as Cuba, Venezuela
His main Democratic rival, Senator Hillary
Clinton, blasted the pledge as a sign of
Obama's inexperience and called his position
"irresponsible and frankly naive."'