HAVANA: US President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned appeal for political liberties in Cuba, including freedom of expression and religion, as he spoke directly to the Cuban people on Tuesday in a historic speech broadcast throughout the Communist-ruled island.
Speaking at Havana’s Grand Theatre with Cuban President Raul Castro in attendance in what White House officials touted as a crowning moment of his visit, Mr Obama extended a “hand of friendship”.
He declared that he had come to Havana to “bury the last remnant” of the Cold War in the Americas. But he also pressed for economic and political reforms, speaking in a one-party state where little dissent is tolerated.
“Voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections,” he said.
“Not everybody agrees with me on this, not everybody agrees with the American people on this but I believe those human rights are universal. I believe they’re the rights of the American people, the Cuban people and people around the world,” he said.
His address marked the final day of his trip, the first by a US president to Cuba in 88 years. His presence in Havana was the culmination of a diplomatic opening that he and Mr Castro announced in December 2014, ending decades of estrangement between Washington and Havana that began soon after Cuba’s 1959 revolution.