- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2014

President Obama promised Friday that change will come to Cuba because of his decision to normalize diplomatic relations with the communist island.

At a press conference in the White House, the president said isolation of Cuba — American policy for more than five decades — had failed, and he is firmly convinced it was time to forge a new path.

“What I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome. And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome,” he said. “Change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. … It could happen slower than I’d like, but it’s going to happen.”

Mr. Obama announced earlier this week the U.S. will open an embassy in Havana, break down some trade and travel barriers and review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The deal came after the two nations engaged in a spy swap and the Cuban government released American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in captivity.

But critics say the deal still allows Cuba’s communist leader, President Raul Castro, to continue repressing his people, squashing free speech and otherwise violating human rights.

Mr. Obama countered that the U.S. can better affect change by repairing its relationship with Cuba.

“The whole point of normalizing relations is it gives us greater opportunities with that government than not,” he said.

Mr. Obama added that he hopes to visit Cuba at some point in his life, but right now there are no plans for him to travel to Havana or for Mr. Castro to come to Washington.

“We’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards,” he said.

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