In Awkward Press Conference, Cuban President Raul Castro Says Human Rights Shouldn't Be Politicized
U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro held what may be an awkward press conference as the communist leader was asked about political prisoners and human rights.
Human Rights Should Not Be Politicized
Heading into Obama and Castro's press conference, it was revealed the U.S. president would answer two questions while the Cuban leader would respond to only one. By the end of the press conference, Castro responded to two questions largely about human rights in the Latin American country and imprisonment of political opponents.
"Give me list right now of the political prisoners' names to set them free," Castro said originally in Spanish, in response to a CNN reporter's question. "Mention them now. What political prisoners? Tell me the name or names. If there are political prisoners, before nightfall, they will be free."
Castro said human rights should not be politicized and that there are other more important issues to address such as health care and free education. Castro said there are 61 recognized instruments on human rights, but asked how many countries actually oblige to each of them.
"What country complies with them all? Do you know how many? I do. None," said Castro, adding that some countries comply with some human and civil rights and ignore others, but noted Cuba has followed with 47 of the 61 recognized human rights instruments.
"I don't think we can not use the argument of human rights for political confrontation, that is not fair, it's not correct. I'm not saying it's not honest...but let us work so we can all comply with all human rights," added Castro, before ending the press conference citing prior scheduled commitments to attend.
Obama on Normalizing Relations
The press conference came after Obama and Castro held private talks to discuss various issues. At the press conference, Castro acknowledged some of the advancements made since diplomatic relations were first renewed in December 2014, ranging from travel, commercial business in the island, communication and restoring postal service.
Differences still remained. In addition to disagreements about human rights, Castro called on the end of the Cuban embargo -- which requires Congress to lift -- and the return of Guantanamo Bay.
"The blockade stands as the most important obstacle to our economic development and the well-being of the Cuban people. That's why its removal will be of the essence," said Castro about the embargo.
"The embargo's gonna end. When, I can't be entirely sure, but I believe it will end and the path we are on will continue beyond my administration. The reason is logic," said Obama, noting he has done plenty to ease restrictions on an executive level but it's time for Congress to act.
Ultimately, Obama said Cuba's future has to be decided by the Cuban people.
The president arrived in Cuba on Sunday and will leave tomorrow, March 22, as he will visit Argentina.
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