President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro held a news conference today in Havana, Cuba, after a closed-door meeting. The news conference was one of many big moments during President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba.
During the conference the two acknowledged the recent surge in engagement between the two countries, noting that it not only benefits Cuba and the US but the entire hemisphere. The differences between the two countries were also made clear during the conference, as President Obama discussed free expression, human rights, and democracy, saying that the US will continue to speak its mind but it would not seek to impose its system on Cuba.
Castro also called for the US to abandon Guantanamo Bay and to lift the embargo against Cuba, saying that the relations would never be fully normal until both those actions took place. Both parties noted that profound differences still remain between the countries but agreed that this is the first of many steps to further the relationship.
In a rare moment, President Castro took a question from the media. It was regarding Cuba's holding political prisoners. Castro, allegedly not happy about the question, asked for names of the prisoners and said they would be freed that night. Although human rights groups claim the country is indeed holding political prisoners, Cuban authorities claim those prisoners have been convicted of common crimes.
President Obama’s schedule today has him in the heart of the Cuban government, where no US president has been before and a place that was most certainly a target during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s