GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Caribbean leaders urged the United States to lift its 54-year-old “senseless” embargo against Communist-ruled Cuba on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as they convened in Havana for a regional summit.
The summit – bringing together the 15 CARICOM member states and Cuba – aims to increase trade and cooperation within the group and with Cuba.
“We continue to stand with Cuba on the United States embargo against Cuba,” said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who chairs CARICOM.
“I call on President [Barack] Obama to lift that senseless, that senseless embargo now,” he added at a welcoming ceremony at the airport.
A leaders summit takes place on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), preceded by talks between foreign ministers Sunday.
The meeting, along with Cuba’s invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April, signals “the full integration of Cuba into the Western Hemisphere,” said Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran.
The United States and Cuba have lacked full diplomatic relations since 1961. In 1962, Washington imposed an economic embargo on the island, the only Communist-run country in the Americas.
The United States, which is also invited to the April summit, said it was not worried about Cuba’s participation.
“I think what we’re focused on is less on who’s invited and more on what’s discussed,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
She has said that in Panama, Washington would concentrate on shared commitments to the collective defense of democracy and human rights.