Obama’s Year-End Message: North Korea, Cuba and Congress

FILE - In this May 30, 2014, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki. Obama on Monday, June 2, 2014, described a surge in unaccompanied immigrant children caught trying to cross the Mexican border as an "urgent humanitarian situation," as the White House asked Congress for an extra $1.4 billion in federal money to cope. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
President Barack Obama and the first family disembark Air Force One after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their annual family Christmas vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Honolulu. The first family will be staying in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
President Barack Obama and the first family disembark Air Force One after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their annual family Christmas vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Eric Bradner, CNN

 

Washington (CNN)—President Barack Obama prodded Congress to eliminate the United States’ decades-old Cuba embargo Friday, saying that improving relations with the communist country will help open its “hermetically sealed society”—even if changes come in “fits and starts.”

He said he doesn’t expect lawmakers to strip the embargo away immediately, and that Congress will need time to digest a deal he struck this week to free American contractor Alan Gross, trade imprisoned spies and ease U.S. economic restrictions on Cuba in exchange for the release of dozens of political prisoners and expanded Internet there.

His comments came during a feisty year-end news conference Friday, just hours before Obama and his family boarded Air Force One for a holiday vacation in Hawaii.


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