On Tuesday, presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro met in Cuba. For the two men, the meet up represented the growing relationship between the two countries since establishing relations in 2015. On Medium, Ben Rhodes, the White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, explained that more progress between the two countries is still necessary.
“There is much more that can be done–by the United States, and by the Cuban government–to advance this opening in ways that will be good for the United States,” Rhodes wrote. “That is why President Obama is traveling to Cuba. We want to open up more opportunities for U.S. businesses and travelers to engage with Cuba, and we want the Cuban government to open up more opportunities for its people to benefit from that engagement.”
The Obama administration has also made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t endorse Cuba’s stance on human rights. That is to say, the two are friendly, but not exactly on the same wavelength. On the two leaders’ Tuesday meeting, Reuters noted that the two sparred. Obama talked about how the U.S. believed in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Castro later struck back and criticized U.S. racism and police violence.
The worst moment for Castro – who tried to get Obama to join him in a victory salute – came when the Cuban president took questions from the audience. He called on Cuban-American Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent. “Why do you have political prisoners, and why don’t you release them?” Acosta asked.
The New York Times reports Castro seemed hesitant and uncooperative. “What political prisoners?” he asked. “Give me a name or names. 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 refuses to label dissenters as political prisoners; instead, they call them criminals. However, journalists from Cuba and other parts of the world disagree, and they have shared their own lists:
And according to Univision’s María Elena Salinas, John Kerry will also give the Cuban government make their own list of political prisoners: