Politics & Government

Obama: Lifting Cuban embargo, trip to Havana, won’t happen soon

President Obama speaks at a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room, Dec. 19, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
President Obama speaks at a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room, Dec. 19, 2014, in Washington, D.C. TNS

President Barack Obama Friday said he doesn’t expect the U.S. embargo against Cuba to end swiftly despite his move to restore diplomatic relations with the Havana government after more than half a century.

At a year-end White House news conference, Obama said ‘I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.’

‘But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away,’ Obama said in response to a question by McClatchy’s Lesley Clark. ‘I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.’

Obama also downplayed the likelihood that he would visit Cuba before he leaves office.

‘We’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.’

Obama had harsh words for Sony Pictures Entertainment for its decision not to release the satirical film “The Interview” in theaters following a cyberattack on the company that U.S. authorities have attributed to North Korea.

The movie is a comedy about an assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

‘I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face,’ Obama said of Sony. ‘Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.’

Obama added that he wished officials at Sony ‘had spoken to me first.’

‘We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,’ the president said. ‘Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.’

Obama vowed that the United States ‘will respond proportionately’ to the hack attack ‘and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.’

He said North Korea’s decision to ‘mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen…and James Franco’ gives ‘you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.’

“Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face.“Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face.“Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody’s goign to intimidate them for releasing a satirical movie, imagine what’s going to happen when there’s a documentary they don’t like.

“Even worse, if producers and distributors start engaging in self-censorship becaues they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody who frankly probably needs their sensibilities offended.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody’s goign to intimidate them for releasing a satirical movie, imagine what’s going to happen when there’s a documentary they don’t like.

“Even worse, if producers and distributors start engaging in self-censorship becaues they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody who frankly probably needs their sensibilities offended.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody’s goign to intimidate them for releasing a satirical movie, imagine what’s going to happen when there’s a documentary they don’t like.

“Even worse, if producers and distributors start engaging in self-censorship becaues they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody who frankly probably needs their sensibilities offended.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody’s goign to intimidate them for releasing a satirical movie, imagine what’s going to happen when there’s a documentary they don’t like.

“Even worse, if producers and distributors start engaging in self-censorship becaues they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody who frankly probably needs their sensibilities offended.

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