"The Center of Our Cuban Policy"

Friday, November 20, 2009
From yesterday's daily press briefing with U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly:

QUESTION: Yeah. Human Rights Watch had a report out yesterday, said basically that the Cuban Government's human rights record has not gotten any better under Raul Castro, and in fact, in some aspects, is worse in that they're doing some preemptive arrests of people they think might violate whatever order is there. I'm just wondering, has this given the Administration any cause to rethink some of the contacts that it's been having with the Cuban Government?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think first of all, we share many of the concerns put forth in this report, particularly regarding the incarceration of political prisoners as well as actions that have violated the human rights of Cuban citizens and have basically limited the exercise of what we call or we would consider fundamental freedoms.

We – human rights is at the center of our Cuban policy. We are interested in promoting human rights for all Cubans. We have begun an engagement with Cuba of – in areas of national interest and mutual concern. We've also launched some initiatives creating opportunities for Cuban civil society to more easily receive information and interact with their family and also with Cubans who live in the United States. This is the increasing the mail service and increasing telephone service.

So this is a real priority for the United States, and it will continue to be so.

QUESTION: One other – Human Rights Watch recommended that, again, the United States sort of abandon a general embargo against Cuba and get together with other interested countries and just basically issue an ultimatum on Cuba to release all political prisoners by a date certain or face sort of targeted sanctions. Is that an idea that has any appeal to the Administration?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I haven't seen the exact recommendations of the Human Rights Watch. I think you've heard me say before that we've made some gestures to Cuba, and we are waiting to see Cuba make some – take some concrete steps to show that they are also serious in opening up their society and opening up exchanges and interactions with the U.S. And I think that we need to see some more concrete steps before we take any actions like that.