The first US President in Cuba in eighty-eight years, President Obama met with Cuban President Raúl Castro in Havana, Cuba, Monday 26th March, 2016, where the two held a joint press conference.
Excerpted from Time:
"CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. President Barack Obama, we are pleased to welcome you on this, the first visit of a president of the United States of America to our country in 88 years.
"We have observed that in the 15 months that have passed since the decision was made to establish our diplomatic relations, we have obtained concrete results. We were able to resume direct postal exchanges and we signed an agreement to resume commercial flights.
"CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We have signed two memorandums of understanding on the protection of the environment and maritime areas, and another one to secure the safety of sea navigation. Today, another one will be signed on cooperation of the area of agriculture. At the moment, another set of bilateral instruments are being negotiated to cooperate in such areas as counter narcotics, the safety of commerce, and travelers and health. About this last issue, we have agreed to deepen our cooperation in the prevention and treatment of transmissible diseases, such as Zika, and non-transmissible chronic diseases, cancer included.
"This cooperation is beneficial not only for Cuba and the United States, but also for our hemisphere at large. Following the decisions made by President Obama to modify the application of some aspects of the blockade, Cuban enterprises and their American counterparts are working to identify possible commercial operations that could materialize in the still restrictive framework of existing regulations.
"The fact is that some have already materialized, especially in the area of telecommunications — an area in which our country already has a program designed on the basis of its priorities and the necessary technological sovereignty, one that can secure the appropriate (ph) views and the service of national interests.
"Progress has also been made toward the acquisition of medicines, medical materiel and equipment for power generation and environmental protection, these among others. Much more could be done if the blockade were lifted.
"We recognize the position of President Obama and his administration against the blockade, and his repeated appeals to Congress to have it removed. The most recent measures adopted by his administration are positive but insufficient. I had the opportunity to discuss with the president other steps that we think could be taken in order to remove restrictions that remain in force, and make a significant contribution to the debunking of the blockade.
"This is essential, because the blockade remains in force and because it contains discouraging elements and intimidating effects and extra-territorial outreach.
"I put forward to the president some examples on this, showing their negative consequences for both Cuba and other countries. The blockade stands as the most important obstacle to our economic development and the wellbeing of the Cuba people. That’s why its removal will be of the essence to normalize bilateral relations. And actually, it will also bring benefits to the Cuban emigrants who wish the best for their families and their country.
"In order to move forward towards normalization, it will also be necessary to return the territory illegally occupied by Guantanamo Naval Base. Since they stand as the two main obstacles, these issues were again dealt with in the editorial ran on March 9 by the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba.
"CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And again, only four days ago, in the press conference offered by our Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, those pieces extensively reported by the media.
"Other policies should also be abolished for normal relations to develop between the United States and Cuba. No one should intend to have the Cuban people renounce the destiny it chose in freedom and sovereignty, the same for which you have made enormous sacrifices.
"We also discussed international issues, particularly those that could have an impact on regional peace and stability. We had thought to discuss other issues, but we did not have enough time. I had planned to raise our concern over the destabilization some are trying to promote in Venezuela, something which we consider to be counterproductive to the overall situation in the continent. I did not have the chance to raise with him, I’m raising it here.
"Likewise, we talked about the ongoing peace process in Colombia and the effort to put an end to that conflict. There are profound differences between our countries that will not go away. Since we hold different concepts on many subjects such as political systems, democracy, the exercise of human rights, social justice, international relations and world peace and stability.
"We defend human rights. In our view, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are indivisible, interdependent and universal. Actually, we find it inconceivable that a government does not defend and insure the right to health care, education, Social Security with provision and development, equal pay and the rights of children. We oppose political manipulation and double standards in the approach to human rights.
"Cuba has much to say and show on this issue. That is why I have reiterated to the president our willingness to continue moving forward with the dialogue on this matter that was already initiated.
"On December 17th, 2014, as we announced the decision to re- establish diplomatic relations, I said that we should learn the art of co-existing with our difference in a civilized manner. In my remarks to Parliament on July 15, 2015, I said changing everything that needs to be changed is the sovereign and exclusive concern of Cubans. The revolutionary government is willing to advance to a normalization of relations, for it is convinced that both countries can co-exist and cooperate in a civilized manner and for the mutual benefit regardless of existing and future differences and thus contribute to peace, security, stability, development and equity in our continent and around the world.
"CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Today, I reaffirm that we should exercise the art of civilized co-existence, which involves accepting and respecting differences and preventing these from becoming the center of our relationship.
"We should instead promote links that can benefit both our countries and peoples while focusing on those things that bring us closer and not on those that pull us apart. We agree that a long and complex path still lies ahead. But what is most important is that we have started taking the first steps to build a new type of relationship, one that has never existed between Cuba and the United States.
"Actually, destroying a bridge can be an easy and quick undertaking. However, its solid reconstruction can prove a lengthy and challenging endeavor. After four failed attempts and giving proof of the will and perseverance, on September 2, 2013, American swimmer Diane Nyad managed to cross the Florida Strait swimming without an anti-shark cage to protect her.
"To that exploit of conquering the geographical differences between our two countries. It was for that exploit that on August 30th, 2013, as the national anthems of Cuba and the United States were played she was presented with the Order of Sport Merit, a declaration awarded by the State Counsel. Such feat carries a powerful message.
"One that should serve as an example to honor bilateral relations. For it confirms that if she could do it, then we can do it too. President Obama, I reiterate our appreciation for his visit and the willingness of the government of Cuba to continue moving forward in the well being of our countries. Thank you very much. SOURCE
Anxious not to maximise the positives of the moment or to miss the particularly golden opportunity to etch their country's humanitarian bent and sterling moral position into the annals, reporters Jim Acosta of CNN and Andrea Mitchell of NBC posed their predictable questions. Part of Andrea Mitchell's question was:
"What is the future of our two countries, given the different definitions and the different interpretations of profound issues like democracy and human rights?"
Graciously, President Obama went to bat and then it was President Raúl Castro's turn. To me, his impatience was obvious, or maybe the impatience was really all mine, but here was his answer about human rights:
"CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ....Well, Andrea. I was reading here something I think about human rights, but I’m going to make the question to you now. There are 41 — there are 61 international instruments to recognize how many countries in the world comply with all the human rights and civil rights that have been included in these 61 instruments.
CASTRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): What country complies with them all? Do you know how many? I do. None. None whatsoever. Some countries comply some rights, other comply others. And we are among these countries. Out of these 61 instruments, Cuba has complied with 47 of these human rights instruments.
There are countries that may comply with more, those that comply with less. I think human rights issues should not be politicized. That is not correct. If that is a purpose, then we will stay the same way. Like, for example — for Cuba that does not fulfill all the rights.
Do you think there is any other — more sacred right than the right to help so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicament. For example, do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country? I think many countries don’t think this is a human right.
In Cuba, all children are born in a hospital and they are registered that same day because when mothers are in advanced pregnancy, they are — they go to hospitals days before, many days before delivery, so that all children are born in hospitals. It doesn’t matter if they live in faraway places or in mountains or hills.
We have many other rights — a right to health, the right to education. Do you — and this is my last example that I will mention. Do you think that for equal work, men get better pay than women just for the fact of being women? Well in Cuba, women get same pay for same work. I can give you many, many examples, so I don’t think we cannot use the argument of human rights for political confrontation. That is not fair. It’s not correct.
I’m not saying that is not honest, it’s part of confrontations, of course. But let us work so that we can all comply with all human rights." SOURCE
Back in the USA, where financial/military/prison/medical/race/academic/energy- industrial complexes are eating their own, where presidential candidates appear to be competing with each other to expose a festering economic and social morass so punishing to the vulnerable, that many Americans are no longer as prone to combusting at the mere mention of the words socialism and revolution, but instead its young people are giving the socialist, Bernie Sanders their rapt attention and support.
Here is Bernie Sanders in his interview last night with Anderson Cooper of CNN. Whether or not he is successful, as an American who dares to reveal that he is capable of self-reflection, he stands among those who increase my hope for his country and the rest of the world.
Uploaded by Democratic National Committee
How people decide to live life is completely up to them, so best wishes to the people of Cuba. I have no reason to believe that in their hearts and in the struggle and their efforts to protect the revolution, their leaders have not always wanted the best for their people, so I also believe that these changes today are not a departure from that, but reflective of their continuing concern for the country's welfare. The seeds have been sown, and even if the change renders them unrecognisable, even to themselves, I know that a memory, a heritage, a word of respect and gratitude and a salute will remain. Perhaps that is the only victory that can ever be hoped for or won by individuals and nations alike. With very little this country has achieved marvels which detractors will continue to deliberately ignore or reluctantly acknowledge. To all the people of Cuba - ¡Que Dios los acompañe! May their minds, their spirits and their hands remain their own.
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.
Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.
Mweh ka allay!