President Obama recently made history by being the first U.S. President to step foot on Cuban soil in decades. In fact, President Calvin Coolidge was the last and only other American president to embark to the Caribbean island, when he attended a meeting of American and Caribbean states in Havana in 1928.
Reluctantly, the world has changed drastically in the last eighty-some years. In between a few global wars, a crazy German dictator, and nearly nuking the whole first and second worlds into oblivion, Cuba stood idly by as the little minnow of communist power in the west (except for that missile crisis thing during the 1960s).
President Obama went to Cuba to “normalize” affairs between the two states, bring economic growth, and promote human rights and development within the long blocked-off state. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Obama’s mission was actually accomplished.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there was a differing definition of “human rights” held by each of the two national leaders. President Castro, of course, stood in critique of President Obama’s failure to implement universal healthcare, free education, and equal pay–which, of course, are human rights in Castro’s view. Surprisingly, Obama didn’t agree with him. According to the Times, POTUS didn’t want to appear as “interventionist.” However, both Obama and Raul Castro, Cuba’s president, have characterized the tenuous human rights violations as a “powerful irritant” to normalized relations between the two countries.
In a joint press conference with Presidents Obama and Castro, a journalist also raised the question of whether or not Cuba would release political prisoners that have been held by the communist government. Castro denied the allegation and said, “Show me a list… Tell me a name… If you can show me one, I’ll release them tonight.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Cuba maintains thousands of political prisoners, many of whom are viewed as “counterrevolutionary” and were detained for being critical of the government.
Castro appeared to be disgruntled, and quickly ended the press conference. However, before the end, Castro also called upon the United States to turn over the Guantanamo Bay naval base back to Cuba and to end any and all economic sanctions that remain against the state.
“The embargo is going to end,” Obama said with very little affirmation, “When, I can’t be entirely sure.”
Further parts of the visit were also made to promote economic good will for the people of Cuba.