Today, President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would re-open embassies in each other's countries. The move has been months in the making, ever since President Obama first announced steps toward normalizing relations last December. Since then, some travel and trade restrictions have been lifted, and in April the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. In remarks he made at the Rose Garden this morning, President Obama called on Congress to repeal the embargo laws that have been on the books for decades.
Here in the United States, we've seen that same enthusiasm [for normalizing relations as the rest of the Americas have seen]. There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba. American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba. Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives. One Cuban American looked forward to "reuniting families and opening lines of communications." Another put it bluntly: "You can't hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past."
And that's what this is about: a choice between the future and the past.
Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it's time for Congress to do the same. I've called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba. We've already seen members from both parties begin that work. After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?
President Obama is absolutely right, why should Washington stand in the way of the American people? But traveling to Cuba and trading with Cubans aren't the only things some Americans would like to do but can't because of laws restricting the freedom of Americans on the books. President Obama's question should be asked by him, his successor, and every politician in Washington every time one of them proposes a new rule imposing limits on the non-violent activities of Americans.
Watch the entirety of the president's comments below: