US President Barack Obama said that Cuban authorities have shown no interest in changing bilateral relations, in an interview published Friday by the Colombian daily El Tiempo and other Latin American newspapers.
Obama was set to arrive in the Caribbean Colombian city of Cartagena later Friday, for the two-day Summit of the Americas that is to be attended by 32 other leaders from the region. Cuba has not been invited to the gathering, and Ecuador boycotted the event in protest over the exclusion.
"Cuban authorities have shown no interest whatsoever in changing their relations with the United States and also no disposition to respecting the democratic and human rights of the Cuban people," Obama said.
"Even during the recent visit to that country by Pope Benedict XVI, Cuban authorities insisted that Cuba is to remain a single-party state and proceeded to continue persecuting those who raise their voices in support of the rights of the Cuban people," he added.
Communist Cuba has not taken part in any of the previous five editions of the Summit of the Americas. While host Colombia and other Latin American countries wanted to invite the Caribbean nation to the Cartagena gathering, the United States staunchly refused, and Havana was not issued an invitation.
Obama said he looks forward to the moment when "a democratic Cuba claims back its well-deserved place at the Summit of the Americas and to the day when the Cuban people enjoy the same rights and liberties" as others in the region.
"I have clearly said we are looking for a new era in relations between our two countries. As president, I have made the most significant changes in several decades in our policy towards Cuba, including allowing family visits and making it possible for citizens to send remittances that grant a certain hope and independence to the people of Cuba," he said.
Obama made it clear that a change of regime in Havana is necessary for more substantial changes in ties.
"No authoritarian regime lasts forever," he said.
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