PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (CNN) - President Obama said Friday he is seeking "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with Cuba.
Before addressing the representatives of 34 countries at the Summit of the Americas, Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saw each other and shook hands.
"Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path," Obama told the assembly. "But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americas have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies.
"Toward that end, the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba."
Obama arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday evening for the Summit of the Americas, a key meeting of hemispheric powers. Although it was not represented at the talks, the subject of Cuba dominated the president's speech.
In prepared remarks, Obama said that "decades of mistrust" must be overcome, but noted that he has already loosened restrictions that limited Americans from traveling to visit relatives in Cuba and from sending money to them.