PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (CNN) - In remarks to be delivered Friday to representatives of 34 countries at the Summit of the Americas here, President Obama says he is seeking "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with Cuba.
"Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path," a transcript of his prepared remarks reads. "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 the prepared remarks, Obama adds that "decades of mistrust" must be overcome, but notes that he has already loosened restrictions that limited Americans from traveling to visit relatives in Cuba and from sending money to them.
Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.
(CNN) - The United States and Cuba are exchanging what may be the warmest of words between the two nations in over 50 years.
According to an advance copy of President Obama's opening remarks at the Summit of the Americas released Friday by the White House, the president will announce the first steps toward a "new day" in U.S.-Cuban relations.
"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day," the president is expected to say. "I have already changed a Cuba policy that has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the island whenever they choose and to provide resources to their families – the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to help them pay for their everyday needs."
"Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction."
Cuban President Raul Castro said Thursday he had sent the U.S. government word he was willing to talk about "human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners - everything, everything, everything they want to discuss."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to Castro's remarks at a press conference Friday. In appearance alongside Dominican Republic President Leonel Antonio Fernandez, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said US policy toward Cuba has failed and that the United States was "taking a very serious look" at how to respond to Cuban President Raul Castro's 'overture.'
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Nearly 50 years after the U.S. imposed an embargo on Cuba, President Obama took steps this week that may lead to improved relations with the island nation.
The president loosened restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting and sending money home to relatives who still live in Cuba, and a White House spokesman said the U.S. will begin sending humanitarian assistance "directly to the Cuban people."
Obama heads to the Summit of Americas Friday in Trinidad and Tobago. Cuba is expected to be a topic of discussion.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows that 71 percent of Americans support reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, while 64 percent of Americans back lifting the U.S. ban on travel to the island nation.
What do you think? Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) – When President Obama arrives in Trinidad and Tobago this week for the Summit of the Americas, the one country in the region not present may be the one he hears the most about: Cuba.
Latin American leaders overwhelmingly oppose the U.S. trade embargo imposed on the communist island in 1962 - years after Fidel Castro led a revolution to overthrow Cuba's Batista dictatorship.
Although Castro was credited with bringing social reforms to Cuba, he has been criticized around the world for oppressing human rights and free speech.
Several Latin American leaders have said they'll bring up the trade embargo at the summit. But this time it's not just Washington's usual critics.
Last month at the White House, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva urged the U.S. to normalize relations with Cuba. Obama and Lula da Silva are among the leaders scheduled to attend the Summit of the Americas this week.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration has decided to loosen restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban-Americans, senior administration officials confirmed Monday.
The White House plans to announce the change later in the day.
The decision represents a significant shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba. It comes days before Obama leaves for the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.
Related: 7 in 10 Americans back diplomatic relations with Cuba, according to a CNN/ORC poll
Before he was elected president, Obama promised to lower some of the barriers in Cuban-American relations. Provisions attached to a $410 billion supplemental budget Obama signed in March also made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba and to send money to family members on the island. In addition, they facilitated the sale of agricultural and pharmaceutical products to Cuba.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Cuba purposely has made life difficult for U.S. diplomats serving in the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and has even poisoned family pets to hurt American morale, according to a State Department report released Friday.
The report dates back to 2007, but its release comes just days before the Obama administration is expected to ease some restrictions on Cuban-Americans sending money to Cuba and visiting family there.
And it is made public just days after a Congressional Black Caucus delegation returned from Cuba and provided glowing reports of how they were received by Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.
The report was prepared by the State Department inspector general. It repeatedly mentions poor morale among U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba, saying the Cuban government "lets you know it's hostile."
Without full diplomatic relations with Cuba, and with a trade and travel embargo still in place, there is no U.S. Embassy. The Interests Section issues visas and performs other diplomatic services.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama is getting ready to visit to the Summit of the Americas next week amid rising reports the administration is planning to announce new rules on family travel and remittances to Cuba. Do Americans back a plan to relax some of the current restrictions on that island nation?
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Friday suggests the answer is yes. Nearly two thirds think the United States should lift its ban on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba. And seven in ten think it's time to re-establish diplomatic relations with that country.
" Republicans as well as Democrats favor re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "On the issue of lifting travel restrictions, Republicans are evenly divided, while Independents and Democrats support the change."
The CNN/ORC telephone poll of 1,023 Americans was conducted April 3-5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two Republican congressmen ripped Congressional Black Caucus members for ignoring Cuba's "myriad gross human rights abuses" Thursday, saying this week's caucus trip to the island nation ignored the plight of political prisoners under the Castro regime.
They also urged the Obama administration to refrain from easing trade embargo or travel restrictions until the Cuban government releases all "prisoners of conscience," shows greater respect for freedom of religion and speech, and holds "free and fair" elections.
The call from Reps. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, and Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, came three days after the administration signaled that new rules on family travel and remittances to Cuba may be announced before President Obama goes to the Summit of the Americas on April 17.
It also followed statements from several Black Caucus members Tuesday arguing for consideration of an end to the trade embargo and other diplomatic restrictions placed on Cuba for five decades.
(CNN) - A Missouri congressman is denying former Cuban president Fidel Castro's claim that a member of the fact-finding delegation described the U.S. as "racist."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is one of the seven lawmakers who visited the island nation on a congressional delegation. Members of the CBC met with President Raul Castro and three of which met with brother, Fidel, at the home of the Cuban revolutionary leader.
In a statement released by the Cuban government, Fidel Castro praised the seven Democratic congressional delegates and alleges that one member said that despite President Obama's electoral victory, "America continues to be racist." The former Cuban president would not disclose the name of the delegate who allegedly made such statement.
Cleaver denied such a comment was ever made at a news conference following the delegation's return Tuesday night.
"That did not happen," Cleaver said
Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the CBC who led the delegation to Cuba, said she did "not have any comment with regard to that. I am not privy to anyone saying that in any meaning. I don't remember that."
Cuban-American Republican lawmakers blasted the CBC members' visits with Raul and Fidel Castro.
"Regardless of one's position on US Cuba policy, one would expect that any US official or Member of Congress visiting Cuba would have the courage to meet with members of Cuba's struggling independent civil society and raise concerns about the regime's systematic violation of human rights with Cuban officials," Florida Sen. Mel Martinez said in a statement issued Wednesday.
"To meet with the Castro brothers and not bring up the subject of their appalling human rights abuses is a shameful missed opportunity," Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also said in a statement.
(CNN) – "It's time to talk to Cuba."
That frank assessment from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, has resonated loud and clear from the island of Cuba - 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida - to the halls of Congress.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, relations between the two nations, which has a history steeped in tension, have seemed to ease a bit.
And that was no more apparent than this week, as a delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to the communist country on a fact-finding mission, with plans to deliver a report to the White House.
"Our purpose was to see if there were preconditions on the Cuban side. We heard that there were no preconditions," Lee said Wednesday. "And, in fact, we wanted to find out if they were interested. We have to remember that every country in Latin America, 15 countries, have normal relations with Cuba. ... We're the country which is isolated."