Latin American leaders have welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision Wednesday to restart diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“We must recognize the gesture of President Barack Obama, a brave and necessary gesture in history. He has taken a step, perhaps the most important step of his presidency,” said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro described Obama’s decision as a “moral” victory for the region, while left-wing leaders lined up to offer their support for the move.
“I am very happy,” he added.
Venezuela and other Latin American nations have long demanded that the United States end its embargo of Cuba.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said it was essential the two countries work together “without grudges,” while “recognizing the difficulty of the task and sincerely supporting it.”
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega described the renewal of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana as a “new era in the history of our America and the Caribbean,” while the Chilean foreign ministry said it brought the Cold War to a close.
On the right side of the region’s political spectrum, the decision was likewise welcomed.
“On behalf of all the Colombian people and I think the whole continent, we celebrate the boldness and courage of President Obama and the Cuban government to make this decision,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said he supports the move, arguing Cuba deserves “equal rights” to the rest of the region.
When he announced the restarting of bilateral ties earlier in the day, Obama explained the United States and Cuba share a “complicated history,” and admitted that the decades-old controversial economic blockade and other policies have had “little effect.”
The step toward normalizing relations between the two countries includes opening a U.S. embassy in Havana, after more than half a century of aggressive destabilization tactics.
Obama also announced measures that loosen the economic embargo, including easing banking and commerce restrictions, and allowing remittances to be sent back to the island nation by Cubans in the United States.
The president also stated he will open discussions in the Republican dominated Congress about fully dismantling the embargo.
Obama’s statement was made simultaneously with one by Cuban President Raul Castro.