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Caribbean presses Obama on Cuba

Raul Castro and Baldwin Spencer in Santiago de Cuba, 7/12/2008
Spencer (left) and Caricom were hosted by Castro (right)

The leaders of 14 Caribbean nations have called on US President-elect Barack Obama to lift the decades-old American trade embargo against Cuba.

The call came during a one-day summit between Cuba and the Caribbean regional trade bloc, known as Caricom.

Current Caricom president, Antigua's Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, said he hoped the US embargo would finally be "relegated to history."

The Caribbean leaders were meeting to discuss the current economic crisis.

"As we gather today in Cuba, the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America is still in place," Mr Spencer told the gathering in Santiago de Cuba.

"The Caribbean community hopes that the transformational change which is underway in the United States will finally relegate that measure to history."

Caricom chose to hold the summit in Cuba, even though the communist state is not a member of the Caribbean trade bloc.

The fact that so many Caricom heads of state and government attended indicates that Caribbean co-operation is increasingly crossing political boundaries, as everyone struggles to cope in the harsh economic times, the BBC's Michael Voss says from Santiago.

Mr Spencer also called upon the United Nations to do more to help small countries cope.

In his opening speech, Cuba's President Raul Castro said that it was the world's poor who would bear the brunt of what he described as a reckless disaster caused by speculation, individualism and greed.

Cuba has survived more than four decades of US sanctions targeting the regime led by Fidel Castro and, since February, by his brother Raul.

Mr Obama has said that he would lift restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba, but maintain the US trade embargo to press for changes in the Communist-run country.



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