President Obama announced Wednesday that more than 50 years after the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Cuba, he would begin normalizing relations between the two countries. While critics from both parties voiced their concerns, some officials are optimistic.
"This is still a terrible regime. We don't support their form of government. We don't like what they're doing," former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday on "CBS This Morning." "But I think having diplomatic relations, as we have had with the Soviet Union, with Vietnam and so many other places, we can produce positive change."
President George W. Bush supported the economic embargo on Cuba as did Powell during Mr. Bush's first term. Eleven years ago, Powell opposed relaxing restrictions against Cuba because he believed Fidel Castro would use it to enhance his power.
"Over the last 50 years I have watched this policy unfold, and I have been a part of it," he said. "And as secretary of state ... I supported it and even strengthened the sanctions against Cuba. But I think it's time now to turn that page of history."
Powell said Congress won't lift U.S. sanctions against the dictatorship but said having an ambassador in Cuba is a step forward.
"My experience in all of this is once you start talking to someone, you're almost inserting a poison pill into the system where they have to start responding to the pressures that they are still under," he said.
But Powell warned against overemphasizing the leaders' recent actions.
While this is a move in a different direction, Powell said there are still many steps Cuba needs to take to solidify its relationship with the U.S., including "releasing political prisoners, opening up the economy, making life easier and more open for the Cuban people."
"I hope our ambassador going in will make sure that we give this message to them at every opportunity," Powell said.
"If we can identify that the North Koreans did it and if we can be specific as to who did it within North Korea, then I think appropriate action has to be taken," Powell said. "... We are rather limited in what we can do to North Korea that we haven't already done, but I'll wait and see what the administration announces, and then we'll go from there."