In September 2010, Obama extended the presidential authority to order the continuation of the existing economic embargo on Cuba by another year, as per the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act.
Presidential Memorandum-Continuation of Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act
SUBJECT: Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act
Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), and a previous determination on September 11, 2009 (74 FR 47431, September 16, 2009), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2010.
I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.
Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2011, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.
The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.
September 2, 2010: Presidential Memorandum-Continuation of Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act
… the Cuban people now have not enjoyed freedom for 50 years, and everywhere else in the world you've been seeing a democratization movement that has been pressing forward. Throughout Latin America, democracies have emerged from previously authoritarian regimes. The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba.
Now, what we've tried to do is to send a signal that we are open to a new relationship with Cuba if the Cuban government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country and its own -- and provide the space and the respect for human rights that would allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.
I changed the remittance laws so that family members could more easily send money back to Cuba, because that would give them more power and it would create a economic space for them to prosper. Within Cuba we have changed the family travel laws so that they can travel more frequently, as well as laws that relate to educational travel.
And so we've made these modifications that send a signal that we're prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a Cold War mentality dating back to when I was born. On the other hand, we have to see a signal back from the Cuban government that it is following through on releasing political prisoners, on providing people their basic human rights, in order for us to be fully engaged with them. And so far, at least, what we haven't seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo.
I don't know what will happen over the next year, but we are prepared to see what happens in Cuba. If we see positive movement we will respond in a positive way. Hopefully, over the next five years, we will see Cuba looking around the world and saying, we need to catch up with history.
September 28, 2011: Obama, in a question and answer session with U.S. Hispanic media.
President Obama believes that recent changes in Cuba have not been "aggressive enough" to open its economy or reform its political system. “And they certainly have not been aggressive enough when it comes to liberating political prisoners and giving people the opportunity to speak their minds… You are seeing enormous changes taking place in the Middle East just in the span of six months, you are seeing there are almost no authoritarian communist countries left in the world, and here you have this small island that is a throwback to the 60s.”September 13, 2011: Obama, speaking to Spanish-language correspondents in Washington (via BBC: Barack Obama says Cuba's reforms not aggressive enough