During a press event televised live on Monday in Havana, Cuba, Raul Castro publicly excoriated the United States over its double standards regarding human rights. In response, President Obama said he “welcomed” the criticisms.
“There are profound differences between our countries that will not go away,” Castro said after chiding the United States for its “double standards” on human rights by keeping detainees in Guantanamo Bay and its policies on health care, education, and equal pay.
When asked a question about political prisoners, Castro said Cuba held no political prisoners, and said if he were provided with a list of these prisoners’ names, he would release them all today.
“Just mention the list,” Castro said. “What political prisoners? Give me a name or names or when, after this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners, and if we have those political prisoners they will be released before tonight ends.”
The Cuban government arrested more than 50 human rights protesters just prior to Obama’s visit. According to news reports, many of these protestors, who are part of a group known as “The Ladies In White,” thought Obama’s visit would shield them from being arrested while speaking out against their government’s horrible track record regarding human rights. Estimates indicate the Cuban government has at least 60 political prisoners and an approximately 103 were killed in 2014.
When he was asked follow-up questions about political prisoners, Castro became incredulous and promptly ended the press conference.
“It’s not correct to ask me about political prisoners in general!” Castro exclaimed, before announcing the press event was over. He then grabbed Obama’s arm and began waving it around in a weird salute-like gesture while Obama grinned and waved at the press gathered at the event.
— Jason Rogers (@JasonARogers) March 21, 2016
You can watch the full event here.