Obama sees positive signs from Venezuela, Cuba

President Barack Obama on Sunday suggested Cuba release its political prisoners and strongly defended his highly publicized handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the end of overseas trip that he said heralded a new start in U.S. ties with Central America.

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PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Sunday suggested Cuba release its political prisoners and strongly defended his highly publicized handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the end of overseas trip that he said heralded a new start in U.S. ties with Central America.

At a news conference marking the end of the Summit of the Americas, Obama added that in terms of Cuba and Venezuela, "I do believe that the signals sent so far provide at least an opportunity for frank dialogue on a range of issues, including critical issues of democracy and human rights throughout the hemisphere."

And yet, he quickly added, "the test for all of us is not simply words but also deeds."

Obama loosened aspects of a 50-year-old trade embargo with Cuba before departing Washington, and suggested ways Cuba could respond. "They could release political prisoners," he said, and "reduce charges on remittances" - the money that Cuban-Americans send their families on the communist nation.

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