New Group Wants Obama To Change Cuba Policy, Now

New Group Wants Obama To Change Cuba Policy, Now
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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the deadly tornadoes that tore through several states before making a statement during a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is assuring Filipinos that a new security agreement doesn't mean the U.S. is trying to reestablish military bases in their country. The president says a deal signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help strengthen security in the region. He said it also will allow for a faster response to natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the deadly tornadoes that tore through several states before making a statement during a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is assuring Filipinos that a new security agreement doesn't mean the U.S. is trying to reestablish military bases in their country. The president says a deal signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help strengthen security in the region. He said it also will allow for a faster response to natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Adds reference to new reforms announced in Cuba on Monday, paragraph 11)

By David Adams

MIAMI, April 28 (Reuters) - A new advocacy group calling for the United States to change its policy toward Cuba launched an advertising campaign on Monday with posters on the Washington D.C. metro system showing President Barack Obama and urging him to "stop waiting."

The metro ads by the group #CubaNow are designed to highlight economic changes happening in Cuba. The group believes the 52-year-old U.S. embargo against the communist-ruled island has not worked.

"It's time to bring the conversation on U.S.-Cuba policy into the 21st century," said #CubaNow director Ric Herrero.

The group said its mission, unlike other Cuba policy groups, was specifically focused on changing U.S. thinking about Cuba policy.

While the group opposes the embargo, it recognized that overturning it in Congress is an uphill battle and other ways can be found to change policy, such as allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba.

"There's plenty the President can do within his existing authority," said #CubaNow founding member Andres Díaz, a Cuban-born former Obama administration official at the Department of Commerce.

#CubaNow was founded by a group of mostly younger generation Cuban Americans. Herrero declined to discuss its funding.

The group's launch coincides with the fifth anniversary of Obama's 2009 steps allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to visit relatives in Cuba as well as send remittances.

That policy shift helped "usher in more change in that time than had been seen in the previous 50 years," the group said in a press release.

Herrero said the group, based in Miami and Washington, wants the White House to take "new steps" to encourage Cuba's burgeoning private sector which has emerged under economic reforms being slowly introduced by the Cuban government.

Cuba announced new reforms on Monday loosening regulation of its largest state-run companies including minerals, tourism and telecommunications.

The group's founding is part of a new wave of efforts to prod Obama into taking bolder steps to engage the Cuban government.

It follows a February poll by the Atlantic Council which found a majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba.

In November, Obama told a Miami area fundraiser that it may be time for the United States to "update" its policies toward Cuba.

"Blue jeans and rock'n roll brought down the Berlin Wall, so we have to recognize that there is a new wave of energy pushing a new approach toward U.S.-Cuba policy," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political strategist who is Cuban American. (Editing by David Gregorio)

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