http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/president-obama-responds-directly-to-yoani-sanchez-questions/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

President Obama responds directly to Yoani Sanchez questions

Posted November 19, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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President Obama: Thank you for this opportunity to exchange views with you and your readers in Cuba and around the world and congratulations on receiving the Maria Moore Cabot Prize award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for coverage of Latin America that furthers inter-American understanding. You richly deserve the award. I was disappointed you were denied the ability to travel to receive the award in person.

Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals.

Yoani Sanchez: QUESTION #1. FOR YEARS, CUBA HAS BEEN A U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE AS WELL AS A DOMESTIC ONE, IN PARTICULAR BECAUSE OF THE LARGE CUBAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, IN WHICH OF THE TWO CATEGORIES SHOULD THE CUBAN ISSUE FIT?

All foreign policy issues involve domestic components, especially issues concerning neighbors like Cuba from which the United States has a large immigrant population and with which we have a long history of relations. Our commitment to protect and support free speech, human rights, and democratic governance at home and around the world also cuts across the foreign policy/domestic policy divide. Also, many of the challenges shared by our two countries, including migration, drug trafficking, and economic issues, involve traditional domestic and foreign policy concerns. Thus, U.S. relations with Cuba are rightly seen in both a foreign and domestic policy context.

QUESTION 2: SHOULD YOUR ADMINISTRATION BE WILLING TO PUT AN END TO THIS DISPUTE, WOULD IT RECOGNIZE THE LEGITIMACY OF THE RAUL CASTRO GOVERNMENT AS THE ONLY VALID INTERLOCUTOR IN THE EVENTUAL TALKS?

As I have said before, I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a range of issues of mutual interest as we have already done in the migration and direct mail talks. It is also my intent to facilitate greater contact with the Cuban people, especially among divided Cuban families, which I have done by removing U.S. restrictions on family visits and remittances.

We seek to engage with Cubans outside of government as we do elsewhere around the world, as the government, of course, is not the only voice that matters in Cuba. We take every opportunity to interact with the full range of Cuban society and look forward to the day when the government reflects the freely expressed will of the Cuban people.

QUESTION 3: HAS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT RENOUNCED THE USE OF MILITARY FORCE AS THE WAY TO END THE DISPUTE?

The United States has no intention of using military force in Cuba. The United States supports increased respect for human rights and for political and economic freedoms in Cuba, and hopes that the Cuban government will respond to the desire of the Cuban people to enjoy the benefits of democracy and be able to freely determine Cuba’s future. Only the Cuban people can bring about positive change in Cuba and it is our hope that they will soon be able to exercise their full potential.

QUESTION 4: RAUL CASTRO HAS SAID PUBLICALLY THAT HE IS OPEN TO DISCUSS ANY TOPIC WITH THE U.S. PROVIDED THERE IS MUTUAL RESPECT AND A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. IS RAUL ASKING TOO MUCH?

For years, I have said that it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, without preconditions, with friends and foes alike. I am not interested, however, in talking for the sake of talking. In the case of Cuba, such diplomacy should create opportunities to advance the interests of the United States and the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

We have already initiated a dialogue on areas of mutual concern – safe, legal, and orderly migration, and reestablishing direct mail service. These are small steps, but an important part of a process to move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new and more positive, direction. Achieving a more normal relationship, however, will require action by the Cuban government.

QUESTION 5: IN A HYPOTHETICAL U.S.-CUBA DIALOGUE, WOULD YOU ENTERTAIN PARTICIPATION FROM THE CUBAN EXILE COMMUNITY, THE CUBA-BASED OPPOSITION GROUPS AND NASCENT CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS?

When considering any policy decision, it is critical to listen to as many diverse voices as possible. When it comes to Cuba, we do exactly that. The U.S. government regularly talks with groups and individuals inside and outside of Cuba that have an interest in our relations. Many do not always agree with the Cuban government; many do not always agree with the United States government; and many do not agree with each other. What we should all be able to agree on moving forward is the need to listen to the concerns of Cubans who live on the island. This is why everything you are doing to project your voice is so important – not just for the advancement of the freedom of expression itself, but also for people outside of Cuba to gain a better understanding of the life, struggles, joys, and dreams of Cubans on the island.

QUESTION 6: YOU STRONGLY SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES. BUT, CUBANS CONTINUE TO HAVE LIMITED ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. HOW MUCH OF THIS IS DUE TO THE U.S. EMBARGO AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT?

My administration has taken important steps to promote the free flow of information to and from the Cuban people particularly through new technologies. We have made possible greater telecommunications links to advance interaction between Cuban citizens and the outside world. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba, for example, by expanding opportunities for fiber optic and satellite transmissions to and from Cuba. This will not happen overnight. Nor will it have its full effect without positive actions by the Cuban government. I understand the Cuban government has announced a plan to provide Cubans greater access to the Internet at post offices. I am following this development with interest and urge the government to allow its people to enjoy unrestricted access to the internet and to information. In addition, we welcome suggestions regarding areas in which we can further support the free flow of information within, from, and to Cuba.

QUESTION 7: WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO TRAVEL TO OUR COUNTRY?

I would never rule out a course of action that could advance the interests of the United States and advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people. At the same time, diplomatic tools should only be used after careful preparation and as part of a clear strategy. I look forward to visit a Cuba in which all citizens enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other citizens in the hemisphere.

Member Comments

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On November 19, 2009, publisher wrote:

Wow. Talk about having the President’s ear!

Congratulations to Yoani for getting him to reply directly to her questions and kudos to the President for taking the time to reply openly to her.

Granted, he didn’t say anything too unexpected but his last paragraph was a great summary of how he feels about US Cuba relations.

Also, Yoani has asked President Raul Castro questions. He has not replied yet that I have read.

  1. What negative influences on the ideological structure of the Cuban revolution might there be from an eventual improvement in relations with the United States?

  2. You have demonstrated on several occasions your willingness to talk with the American government. Are you alone in this proposition? Have you discussed it with the other members of the Politburo to convince them of the need to talk?
Does your brother Fidel Castro agree with regards to ending the conflict between the two governments?

  3. You are seated at a table opposite Obama. What are the three major achievements you would wish to get from that conversation? What do you think would be the three major achievements that the American side would wish to get?

  4. Can you list the concrete advantages the Cuban people would have in the present and in the future, if this long dispute between the two governments ended?

  5. If the American side wanted to include a round of negotiations with the Cuban community in exile, members of opposition parties within the Island, and representatives of civil society, would you accept that proposal?

  6. Do you think there is a real possibility that the current United States government would opt to use military force against Cuba?

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On November 19, 2009, paul wrote:

I appreciate that Obama has demonstrated a lot of backbone on the Cuban issue. He’s not listening to the scores of vulture capitalists and moronic influential leftists that want the US to cave into the demands of a socialist government.


The credit blockade is ethical, and we continue to be Cuba’s largest trading partner. The Obama administration knows not to trust those snakes with credit access.

IF Obama would allow Americans to travel to Cuba, it should ONLY happen if Cuba agrees to allow Cubans to travel freely as well. IF and only then…

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On November 20, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

This interview shows that Yohani has become an important and valid representative of the Cubans inside Cuba.

Let’s see what her critics say now.

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On November 20, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Finaly after all her theatrics she has done something productive.

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On November 21, 2009, Marek wrote:

Publisher, it would be appropriate to provide a source reference, no?  Or is this like that silly Michael Moore fictional interview with Hugo Chavez?

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On November 21, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Marek the source of reference is that the US State Department have confirmed that the response came directly from President Obama.

Pipefitter sometimes I can see your pragmatism but responses like your # 4 makes me doubt the interests you serve: whether you are pro Cuba or simply pro Castro and all that comes with that.

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On November 21, 2009, Marek wrote:

Thanks - I’ve just Googled and confirmed it as well. I simply wanted to encourage appropriate referencing of posted material when possible. smile

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On November 21, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Yeyo, I am pro Cuba and pro Castro when the shoe fits.

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On November 21, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Well, is looking more and more that the shoe is fitting all the time.
I still do not understand why if you are so pro Castro, still you chose to live in a “represive” and “dictatorial” society like Canada.

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On November 21, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

I was born and raised here, have a buisiness, kids etc. here. You can’t say that Fidel has done nothing good in Cuba.

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On November 21, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Oh, ok, I thouth that you were born in Cuba. You should learn better your facts.

I agree with you, I would not say that Fidel have done nothing good in Cuba. However, a big however, all the good that he did on the early years of revolution (which by the way my family and I use to support) was substantially shadowed with his extraordinary desire of power. I was born in Cuba, like every single kid I also was brainwashed by the system, learn to love and believe that anything Fidel says is like god’s words. Slowly when I was in high school I commenced seeing sparks of difference between my way of thinking and the government discourse, and later in University realize that almost everything was simply a big and fat lie.

Everything that he wrote in the…La historia me absolvera… he covered it with mud and forgot about it.

If you look around not only me, millions of Cubans have left the island and many more would continue that path, but also many well now intellectuals in Latin-America and around the world, slowly changed from supporters of the Cuban Revolution (and Fidel Castro obviously) to openly criticize the methods used to perpetuate him in power.

The legendary guerrilla revolutionary leader that brought so many good things to Cuba, covered everything in dirt on his effort to keep himself in power at all costs.

There is a famous phrase: .... the power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely….it was written before Castro was born but it looks like if it was writen for him.

Again, I agree with you that Fidel did many good things, but: Don’t you agree with me that it is not healthy for a society to have somebody in power for over 50 years, to not have free elections, not allowing multiple parties, not allowing free speech, not allowing free access to press and media, the government controlling 100% of the media, to attack and prosecute anybody that have a different opinion, a government that openly exercise state terrorism when send the police forces dressed like the populace to attack, kidnap and silence any signs of discontent or dissent,  etc etc etc.

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On November 22, 2009, publisher wrote:

For those who say Fidel has done some good things…

That’s like saying a kidnapper is good to his hostage because he feeds them well.

What is the price that the Cuban people have to pay for Fidel’s great deeds?

Their freedom.

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On November 22, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Did you see the video in the your favorite paper huffington post site, done by MSNBC were Renaldo gets shoved and pushed by the croud and the plain clothes police have to protect him and hussle him back to his apartment?
Pub, what is the price that Cubans have to pay for America’s great deeds?

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On November 22, 2009, publisher wrote:

Here we go again… deflect the conversation and/or blame America.

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On November 22, 2009, paul wrote:

Not surprised with his reply. Typical communist, blame and deflect arguments with something about the United States.

Blockade, here to stay, keep crying pipefitter.

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On January 12, 2011, Justice wrote:

I feel disrespected, insulted, and mocked when an ignorant pretentious person tells me that the governement that took my dad injustly from me when I was 6 years old, is a good government.
Pipefitter, you don’t know what you are talking about, you should listen to me, and never speak of this subject until you learn the truth. Otherwise you are just another foolish person.

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On September 14, 2011, miguel wrote:

Bad journalism creates myths. Good journalism desinflates them.

Why did this journal not bring the funny story, published by WikiLeaks September 1st 2011, that the answers in Ms. Sanchez’ interview with President Obama were written by the US Interests Section in Havana and sent to the State Department in Washington, from where they were returned only with minor modifications?

See the whole text of the secret cable with the Interest Section’s proposals for the President’s answers on http://www.cubadebate.cu/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/09havana527.pdf