By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS
HAVANA — President Obama on Tuesday made a full-throated plea for Cuba’s autocratic government to change, calling on President Raúl Castro to loosen his grip on the economy and political expression or risk squandering the fruits of a historic thaw.
“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” Mr. Obama said on the stage of the Grand Theater of Havana, the same building where Calvin Coolidge, the last sitting American president to visit Cuba, spoke 88 years ago. “I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.”
“I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates that you do not need to fear a threat from the United States,” Mr. Obama said. “And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I’m also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people and their capacity to speak and assemble and vote for their leaders.”