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With all Cuba watching, Obama offers hopeful possibilities in speech

In a speech broadcast into homes across Cuba, President Obama declared he had come to bury the rivalries of the Cold War and urged Congress to end the 54-year trade embargo, while calling on the Castro government to improve commercial ties and embrace the different voices of the Cuban people. John Yang reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We earlier heard from President Obama in Cuba when he spoke of the Brussels attacks. He had additional business to do in Havana today, including a major address to the Cuban people.

    John Yang reports.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I believe in the Cuban people.

  • JOHN YANG:

    In the final speech of his historic visit, President Obama laid out a future of possibilities, but no guarantees.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. I want the Cuban people, especially the young people, to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope, not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow.

  • JOHN YANG:

    With state TV beaming the speech into Cuban households, Mr. Obama talked of freedom.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    But let me tell you what I believe. I can't force you to agree, but you should know what I think.

    I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear, to organize and to criticize their government and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law shouldn't include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Yesterday, the communist island's state-run media ignored Cuban President Raul Castro's tense exchange with American reporters on political prisoners. But, today, with all of Cuba watching, Mr. Obama directly addressed Castro, who looked on from a balcony.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    And given your commitment to Cuba's sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people and their capacity to speak and assemble and vote for their leaders.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Mr. Obama went on to urge the Castro government to improve commercial ties. At the same time, he repeated his own commitment to lift the U.S. trade embargo.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people. It's a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba. It's time to lift the embargo.

  • JOHN YANG:

    This isn't the first time the president's made that pledge, and he took nearly 40 members of Congress along to reinforce the message.

    But here in Washington, the odds of getting lawmakers to approve a total repeal of the embargo remain slim. There are still major roadblocks, due mainly to Cuba's human rights record.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan reinforced that point today at a briefing.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: And the president takes a trip to Cuba, where he effectively gets nothing in return, and he legitimizes a tyrannical dictatorship. The irony wasn't lost on me.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    All the individuals around this table have shown extraordinary courage.

  • JOHN YANG:

    After his speech in Havana, Mr. Obama met with Cuban dissidents at the U.S. Embassy. He praised their courage and said America's own history is proof of how change can come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm John Yang.

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