President Obama’s Responses to Yoani Sanchez’s Questions

President Barack 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 Sánchez: 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.

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273 thoughts on “President Obama’s Responses to Yoani Sanchez’s Questions

  1. Reply to #262/Albert:

    I am touched by the sincerity you express and your qualities of good manner.

    The terms and conditions that brought the Cuban Five to Miami were based on personal decision made in each case; a sense of patriotism and duty to act to protect their Patria and the people of Cuba. They accepted this assignment on a purely voluntary basis. They stand by the work they came to achieve. They are innocent of all the charges against them except for not having registered as “foreign agents” upon arrival. Do our litany of espionage network operatives (US)pronounce their arrival status to nations when on assignment?

    I believe if you continue to dig deep you will arrive at some new truths.

    Best wishes,

    Jenifer

  2. yes raul.that way is the right,but is not good for peaple whit money,in the republican party and cuba to, they wants keeps the embargo because is the way to make money.and this money is evil. God now that trust.

  3. Truth is the embargo gives fuel to the Castro brothers and makes the USA look as what Fidel and Raul often say: the evil one.
    Could someone explain to me why the US has relations with Russia and not Cuba?
    Could someone explain to me why the US has relations with China and not Cuba?
    Could someone explain to me why the US has relations with Viet-Nam and not Cuba?
    Could someone explain to me why the US has relations with Korea and not Cuba?
    I could keep on listing countries that are under a communist regime just like Cuba is, but why my time.
    All I see as I read most of these comments are people that continue to live in the past, as prior to Fidel, and to all of those people I can only say wake up!
    We live in the richest and most powerful country in this world and yet you seem to be afraid of a small island 90 miles south of Key West.
    You only have one thing to fear and that is fear itself, so let’s open our minds, live in the PRESENT and think what a great advantage it would be for most if not all of us to open those doors that are presently close due to the embargo.
    President Obama is willing to take that step but are Fidel and Raul?
    I doubt it as if they do they know that they would be exposed to all the people of Cuba and they would realize that for the last 50 plus years they have been lied to.
    The only way to make Fidel and Raul look bad is by making THEM the evil ones, not this great United States.

  4. Yoani, tu no me conoces personalmente pero la lucha que tienes tu entre mano la pase yo mismo hace mas de cincuenta anos con la juventud de esa epoca muchos de ellos perdieron la vida peleando por esa desgracia por la cual ha pasado el pueblo de cuba en los ultimos anos. Nosostros los que peleamos por el derecho de todos uds nos seentimos traicionados por la revolucion y todos estamos en apoyo de lo que estan haciedo uds para restorar los derechos humanos que todos hemos perdido.

    Yo se que por tu edad tu no conociste a la Cuba de antes un pais libre de expresion donde se podia llegar a lo maximo si esos eran tus deseos. Yo he tenido la suerte de viajar por todas las islas del caribe por cuestiones de trabjo y siempre pienso en lo que hubiese podido pasar si las cosas fueran distintas por alla, en un tiempo estuve residiendo en la Cuidad de Mexico dondo se vende todas las viandas como sobrante de la reorma agraria de Cuba y hablando con mis padres alla me pude dar cuenta de el engano por el cual todo el pueblo cubano estaba pasando por estas acciones.

    Saludos desde Miami

  5. I have been waiting to recieve my Cuban passport that has been in process since June 2009. I don’t understand if the fee was recieved and that was proceesed why it would then take so long to recieve the passport. I have called on several occasions to inquire about it and was told on the only occasion that they answered the phone that “It is in Process”. If its a united states citizen born in the united states they would not recieve this kind of treatment. They only treat Cuban born citizen in this form. All i want is to be able to go see my parents that i have not seen in almost 16 years.

    Thanks

  6. Obama lies. He is a smooth-talker who will not fix anything. He talked of change and yet has done nothing but talk.

  7. “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.”

    English version
    I was surprised to see Pres. Obama openly admit that Cuba lacks “freedom of expression” since some liberal thinking people around the world and even here in the United States believe and claim that Cuba and its government offers its people “the best” of everything on earth. These people, who believe socialism and communism must thrive in order for all people to receive their fair share, fail to realize the horrors and misery which accompany such ideological beliefs. The truth stares us straight in the face sometimes and yet we CHOOSE not to see it. The “free flow of information” Obama speaks of in his letter may, just may, create a gateway for the people on the island to communicate to the Blind World the realities the Cuban people face everyday.

    (En espanol, perdone la grammatica)

    Me sorprendio leer que el Obama admitio que cuba sufre de “libertad de expression” ya que algunas personas que piensa liberalmente en el mundo y aqui en los estatos unidos creen que cuba y su govierno le ofrece a su gente lo mejor de la tiera. Etas personas que piensan que el socialismo y communismo tiene que exsistir para que todos reciben lo mismo, dejan de entender los horrores y sufrimientos que van mano en mano con esta ideologia. La verdad la tenemos delante aveces pero decidimos no verla. Obama escribe en su calta de la necesidad de information libre en Cuba puede ser que creer un manera para los cubanos en la isla que le communiquen a a Mundo Ciego la realidad que viven en la isla.

  8. I wish Obama would respond to this blog. With billions of bail out dollars going into foreign hands I am now convinced the ruling elite’s goal is to eliminate the middle class.
    I have been trying for 8 years to get my wife a legal resident or citizen status. INS seems to have LOST my APPROVRD I-130 form in the mailing process, even though I made repeated attempts to obtain the approved document, informing the INS of my address many times. I never received it. I made repeated attempts to contact INS and they even sent a letter to confirm they had received my new address. So why did they not send my approved i-130?
    After years of struggling through the slow process of INS, a friend of my wife told her to ask the NVC for an appointment at the U.S. embassy in Honduras. My wife went to Honduras July 9, 2008 for an interview. Later that month I accompanied her to the meeting. She was then denied a visa and denied entry back into the USA. I then submitted an i-601 form (hardship waiver). First I was told it would be 6 months, then 8, then 10. Finally they contacted me after a year of waiting, to inform me that I have been denied and that my clinical depression, financial ruin and the destruction of my marriage were NOT considered a hardship. Attorneys I have spoken with said most US embassies only take a few months and were at a loss for words when I told them of my hardships. The facts be known she should not have had to leave: our i-130 form was approved and INS dropped the ball and now I must pay the price and suffer the consequences.
    Because of my frequent travel to help my wife I am now unemployed and denied any form of unemployment after 26 years of working in my industry. I am sure a double income, with the help from my wife working, would really help during this government caused recession. HELLO, government, I am sinking and all you do is add water in my boat – HELP!!!!
    Unemployed, I made a move to Honduras to try and make it and be with my wife. Our small business only makes enough for us to eat. I am now living in poverty. El Progresso is a dirty place to live. I don’t think people realize that there is a not a distribution of wealth here – there is no middle class. I miss grass (everything is dirt and mud here), I miss hot water (sometimes we don’t even have water), I miss washer and dryer connections, I miss air conditioning and HOT water. I could go on and on——–I want to go home (to the USA) and bring my wife with me. Why is it I have been a witness to an illegal alien being awarded citizenship and bringing their gangster family members over as approved citizens? I am not asking for anything illegal – only justice. There is no ground for my denial, except government officials refuse to admit any mistakes. I know there is someone out there that can help right the wrongs.
    I have been diligently trying to do this the right way, but I also believe this great country has a moral obligation to preserve the family by keeping them together. Now that I am older I have a different perspective on marriage. It is not a contractual agreement; a contract between two people, no, it is to be understood as a covenant relation. My wife is my life partner.
    With the political unrest, poverty, high crime, earthquakes and poor health care here in Honduras I wonder about our survival. Many family and friends have died or been murdered here in Honduras in the past two years.
    And a note to US citizens – if your spouse is an illegal alien – you will not receive ANY tax relief or stimulus money.

  9. #260
    I am still confused … arbitrary & ruthless judicial conditions?
    I am missing on the idea that a spy, an agent of another country executing his/her mission on orders of his/her country is innocent since spying for another country is still illegal right?
    The fivehey are incarecerated: have 3 squares; medical care & access to the media & they were represented in the courts; in the same circumstances the treatment say … in Cuba or in any comparable regime’s jail things are very … very different.
    So yes, perhaps there were errors, perhaps there were tecnicalities … nevertheless they are agents of representing another country, they entered this country under false pretenses & with the specific purpose of deception & spying.
    Like I said, I do much respect your idealistic position; to a point I would agree with you in so far as this people were used by their goverment, their sole rsponsability maybe of making the choice they made to follow their orders.
    It can be argued that we don’t know under what conditions their choice was made, perhaps under duress?
    Still any cause can be defended for as long as the defence is legitimate & since you belive it to be so: I honestly respect your commitment and the strength of your convictions & no, there is no irony intended … I do appreciate your original comment @#257.

  10. To Albert:

    I agree with you — you are confused. I wish you many leaps and bounds in your endeavors to reach a greater understanding; it is apparent you have given these matters some serious examination.

    Best to you,

    Jenifer Smith

  11. #254
    Ed:
    I am a little confused … giving up sovereignty, pride, education, sweat & sacrifice?
    Where is that stated?
    Perhaps to wish for a representative goverment elected freely by the people is not that bad but: I am unable to understand how (if freedom existed) all sacrifices and advances would be lost.
    Perhaps you belive that the blocade is the reason for all this disturbances …
    Is there another point of view allowed in your view? perhaps you follow what you are told with grate care and it is good for you however each and everyone is a different individual and an agreement is forced … is no longer an agreement but a dictatum …
    I am confused …

  12. #257
    I guess a case can be made about the innocence of the red wasps; putting aside the coded secret transmitions “attention” coded numbers, one time pads etc, the infiltration of different organizations, the use of false identification and some other things does not constitute a violation of any law of the US or perhaps other countries..
    Perhaps the fault lies on the technicalities beyond which the intent still remains the same to act in a clandestine fashion to the detriment of the US.
    I would agree that one’s heroes can be someonelse’s terrorists, I’l agree as well that in the nature of that particular line of work the risks are to say the least grave.
    So they got caught end the consecuences of their choices are bearing on their lives.
    Its not their leaders the ones in trouble, is them … the wasps.
    Yes from the human point of view is sad that they are incarcerated … from the legal point technicallities aside … unless my memory serves me wrong … their condition of incarecration are a great deal better than if this were the other way around …
    Not to make a wrong a right … I think the circumstances are very different than what it is perhaps the real truth.
    In my perception, the chose to accept the mission, they knew what the mission was, they were aware of the risks …
    The problem is that they are being used by the Cubans in power, by the media and by all the different political interests.
    On the other hand, like in other countries, they could have been executed, trhown in a cell after torture an left to rot, the could have suffered every indignity of which totalitarian regimes are well known for or they could just have disapeared …
    Like I always say: the bell swings both ways … it is easy to be creatical when freedom exist & allows it to be heard … but if it was the other way around ?

  13. THE CASE OF THE CUBAN FIVE REMAINS UNDER “GAG ORDER”

    Foremost, I am curious to know why our president has given such an audience to this one young lady from Cuba and her “blog” yet has refused to so much as acknowledge receipt of the many thousands of postcards that were mailed to the White House from all corners of the world, expressing solidarity and demands for freedom for the five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in our country under arbitrary and ruthless conditions of excessive judicial strangulation.

    The international solidarity campaign to Free the Cuban Five has not gone quietly into that good night. We are not daunted by your “wall of silence,” Mr. President. By some odd twist of fate, this miss Y has been granted a platform that serves to elevate her standing among the “diehard exile community” that Obama is so fond of kissing all over on, while at the same time contributing to her narcissistic neuroticism that she will most likely outgrow, given time.

    To Miss Y: If you really believe you are restricted to access of the truth in your country, the nation of Cuba, my dear, I will tell you, “the USA has got you beat out more than you could ever know. “ If this were not the case, we would not know you very well at all, but, the country would know about and have learned the true unjust nature in the case against the Cuban Five; and I will mention, they are much easier to love and embrace, than you are.

    Jenifer Smith
    Las Cruces New Mexico

  14. caracol … you ar to kind & your comments are so insightful, about the children, about the armed forces …
    I like to think that these armed forces will lay down their arms not out of cowardice but out of being tired of the use & abuse the castro have subjected them to.
    The children … I have no words to express my outrage & sorrow for what they are going thru …
    Great points … thanks for the reminder …

  15. “Freedom of expression, freedom to travel to other countries,” What else Yoainis Maria Sancho, what else? you are willing to change the sovereignty, pride, our education and sweat and sacrifice of many who have given everything to you and your family go to college and a house you could see “no income” and a hospital “without paying sure “that more are you prepared to change all this?
    Do you do to positively change our relidad on the island without giving up everything we have achieved. I do think that non-blocking and all that do not work on the island are made suit and produce better anger us, we ask U.S. to remove the stupid us, however, that ultimately makes your the 11 million Cubans do not have to eat today. Lift your head of Cuban and defended and supported your government.

  16. “Freedom of expression, freedom to travel to other countries,” What else Yoainis Maria Sancho, what else? you are willing to change the sovereignty, pride, our education and sweat and sacrifiso of many who have given everything to you and your family go to college and a house you could see “no income” and a hospital “without paying sure “that more are you prepared to change all this?
    Do you do to positively change our relidad on the island without giving up everything we have achieved. I do think that non-blocking and all that do not work on the island are made suit and produce better anger us, we ask U.S. to remove the stupid us, however, that ultimately makes your the 11 million Cubans do not have to eat today. Lift your head of Cuban and defended and supported your government.

  17. NOV 28
    EN QUE NOS ESTAMOS CONVIRTIENDO? PARECEMOS ANIMALES PUES LOS ANIMALES NO TIENEN ALMA
    PENSAR QUE ENTRO EN ESTE SITE PAR FLICITAR A UNA JOVEN VALEROSA Y LO ENCUENTRO LLENO DE ARTICULOS INFLAMANTES Y DESACERTADOS ……..DIOS LOS CRIA Y ELLOS SE JUNTAN…. SIGUE ADELANTE JOANIS OJALA YO TUVIERA TUS PANTALONES!!!!!
    PATRICIA

  18. BUENAS TARDES YOANY; FIDEL CASTRO AND HIS BROTHER HAS BEEN WAITING FOR A AMERICAN INVASION IN CUBA FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS THEY HAVE MILITARY EXERCISES EVERY NOW IN THEN JUST TO KEEP THE POOR CUBAN PEOPLE IN THEIR TOES AND DISTRACTED OF DOING ANY WRONG THAT WILL AFFECT THE REVOLUCION.THE UNITED STATES MUST PUT MAXIMUN PRESSURE TO THIS VAMPIRE GOVERMENT ON THE ISLAND OF CUBA WHERE THE CASTROS BROTHERS ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT GET TO SUCK THE BLOOD OF ALL THE THINGS THAT HAS TO DO INTERNALY.THE CUBAN SOLDIERS KNOW THAT IF THERE IS A REAL INVASION CUBA CAN EASILY BE WIPED OFF THE MAP WHEN THE MOMENT COMES EVERY ONE IS GOING TO HIDE FOR COVER. THIS SOLDIERS ARE TRAINED LIKE THE IRAQUIS.

  19. First of all, we must realize that what has happened here – the President of the United States responding to Yoani Sanchez’s blog from Cuba is unprecidented. We may feel disappointed that the political winds don’t appear to move fast enough because Cuba continues to be an slaved nation. However we must recognize that technology coupled with compassion towards basic human rights – prohibited to regular Cuban – is making strides at last. Our hopes and prayers will be answered and then the words of Pope John Paul II will ring true – Que Cuba se abra al mundo y que el mundo se abra a Cuba.

    Yes – there are Cubans in Los Angeles, California

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