Cuba was not represented at the summit, but Obama noted that the leaders of other countries highlighted Cuba's program that sends "thousands of doctors" throughout the hemisphere. A number of countries depend heavily on Cuba's medical assistance program.
"It's a reminder ... that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction - if our only interaction is military - then we may not be developing the connections that can over time increase our influence and have a beneficial effect," he said.
Obama called Cuban President Raul Castro's recent indication of a willingness to discuss human rights issues "a sign of progress." But he said the Cuban government could send a much clearer, more positive signal by releasing political prisoners or reducing fees charged on remittances that Americans send to relatives in the country.
Change in Cuba will not come quickly, but it is good for other countries to see that "we are not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born," Obama said.
What do you think? Should the U.S. lift the trade embargo against Cuba?