US Vice President: no plans to scrap blockade
News from Cuba | Tuesday, 31 March 2009
By Eduardo Gallardo for the associated Press
VINA DEL MAR, Chile (AP) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday that the United States is not planning to lift its trade embargo on Cuba.
Biden, who was in the Chilean resort city of Vina del Mar for a summit of center-left leaders from Latin America and Europe, replied "no" when asked by reporters if Washington plans to scrap the decades-old embargo.
He and President Barack Obama "think that Cuban people should determine their own fate and they should be able to live in freedom," Biden said after taking part in the Progressive Governance Summit.
The vice president said a "transition" is needed in the Washington policy toward the communist-ruled island, but that he was in Chile "to talk about the economy, not Cuba."
Several of the leftist governments in Latin America have urged Washington to lift the embargo of Cuba, saying such a step would improve Washington's relations across the region.
But without signs of budging on the embargo, Biden still drove home the idea that the White House is committed to region. He called his state visit to Chile "just the beginning of the renewal of a partnership with the Americans."
"President Obama and I are absolutely committed to working closely with our neighbors in the hemisphere," he told reporters at Chile's La Moneda presidential palace after meeting with President Michelle Bachelet.
Leftist or left-of-center governments have been elected in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Honduras and Uruguay in recent years, and at least five Latin American leaders have visited Cuba this year.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet - who met with Fidel Castro on a trip to Cuba in February - held a dinner for Biden under candlelight, as lights were turned off in coordination with an international action highlighting climate change.