PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, April 19
(Xinhua)-- U.S. President Barack Obama said here on Sunday that he has seen
"potential positive signs" in U.S. relations with Cuba and Venezuela in the past
He made the remarks at a news conference after the
closing of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, held in the Caribbean twin island
state of Trinidad and Tobago.
"I do believe that the signals sent so far provide at
least an opportunity for frank dialogue on a range of issues, including critical
issues of democracy and human rights throughout the hemisphere," said the
He said he's not concerned with the politics of
shaking hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and is more interested in
extending a policy he described during his presidential campaign of extending an
open hand to nations hostile to the United States.
Obama received a book from the Venezuelan president
on Saturday after greeting him on Friday evening during the weekend summit.
"It was a nice gesture to give me a book. I am a
reader," Obama said.
The book, titled "Open Veins of Latin America: Five
Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent," by Uruguayan journalist Eduardo
Galeano, blames foreign interests like the United States for exploiting Latin
America for centuries.
"We had this debate throughout the campaign. I mean
the whole notion was somehow that if we showed courtesy or opened up dialogue
with governments that had previously been hostile to us that would show
weakness. And the American people didn't buy it and there's a reason they didn't
buy it -- because it didn't make sense," Obama said.
"Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is
one-six hundredth of the United States. They own Citgo. It's unlikely that as a
consequence of me shaking hands or that having a polite conversation with Chavez
that we endanger the interests of the United States," said the president.
On Cuba, Obama said U.S. policy to that country isn't
going to "change overnight," and "freedom for the island nation" remains the
ultimate U.S. goal.
He acknowledged that decades-old policy hasn't worked
the way it was meant to and deserves another look.
The president said it would be "foolish" to think
that ignoring Cuba would bring about change in Cuba's government, adding
policies formulated before he was born should be re-evaluated.