President Obama's Responsesto Yoani Sanchez'sQuestions Thank you for this opportunity to exchangeviews with you and your readersin Cubaand aroundthe world and congratulationson receivingthe Maria Moore CabotPrize awardfrom the ColumbiaUniversity GraduateSchoolofJournalism for coverageofLatin America that furthersinter-Americanunderstanding.You richly deservedthe award. 1was disappointedyou were deniedthe ability to travel to receivethe award in persono
Your blog providesthe world a uniquewidow into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internethasprovidedyou and other courageousCuban bloggerswith an outlet to expressyourself so freely, and 1 applaudyour collective efforts to empowerfellow Cubansto expressthemselvesthrough the useof technology. The govemmentandpeopleof the United Statesjoin all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubanscan freely expressthemselvesin public without fear and without reprisals. QUESTION #1: FOR YEARS, CUBA HAS BEEN A U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ISSUEAS WELL AS A DOMESTIC , ONE, IN PARTICULAR BECAUSE OF THE LARGE CUBAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE,IN WHICH OF THE TWO CATEGORIES SHOULD THE CUBAN ISSUE FIT?
AII foreignpolicy issuesinvolvedomesticcomponents, especiallyissues
concemingneighborslike Cuba from which fue United Stateshas a large immigrant populationand with which we havea long history of relations. Our commitmentto protect and supportfree speech,humanrights, and democratic govemanceat home and aroundthe world also cuts acrossthe foreign policy/domesticpolicy divide. AIso, many ofthe challengessharedby our two countries,including migration, drugtrafficking, and economicissues,involve traditional domesticand foreign policy concems. Thus,U.S. relationswith Cuba arerightly seenin both a foreign and domesticpolicy contexto QUESTION 2: SHOULD YOUR ADMINISTRATION BE WILLING TO PUT AN END TO TRIS DISPUTE, WOULD IT RECOGNIZE THE LEGITIMACY
-2OF THE RAUL CASTRO GOVERNMENT Ă S THE ONL y V ALID INTERLOCUTOR IN THE EVENTUAL T ALKS?
As 1havesaid before,1 am preparedto havemy administrationengagewith the Cubangovernmenton a rangeof issuesof mutual interestaswe havealreadydone in the migration and direct mail talks. It is algomy intent to facilitate greater contactwith fue Cubanpeople,especiallyamongdivided Cubanfamilies, which 1 havedoneby removing U.S. restrictionson family visits andremittances. We seekto engagewith Cubansoutsideof the governmentaswe do eIsewhere aroundthe worId, asthe government,of course,is not the onIy voice that matters in Cuba. We take every opportunityto interactwith the fuII rangeof Cuban societyand Iook forward to the day when fue governmentreflectsthe freeIy expressedwiII of the CubanpeopIe. QUESTION 3: HAS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT RENOUNCED THE USE OF MILITARY FORCE AS THE WAY TO END THE DISPUTE? The United Stateshasno intention of using military force in Cuba. The United Statessupportsincreasedrespectfor humanrights and for political and economic freedomsin Cuba,and hopesthat !he Cubangovernmentwill respondto the desire of the Cubanpeopleto enjoy the benefitsof democracyand be able to freely determine Cuba's future. Only the Cubanpeoplecan bring aboutpositive change in Cubaand it is our hopethat they will soonbe ableto exercisetheir full potential, QUESTION 4: RAUL CASTRO HAS SAID PUBLICL y THA T HE IS OPEN TO DISCUSSANY TOPIC WITH THE U.S. PROVIDED THERE IS MUTUAL RESPECTAND A LEVEL PLA YING FIELD. IS RAUL ASKING TOO MUCH? For years,I have saidthat it is time to purguedirect diplomacy,without preconditions,with friends and foes illike. I am not interested,however,in talking for the sakeof talking. In the caseof Cuba,suchdiplomacy shouldcreate opportunitiesto advancethe interestsof the United Statesand the causeof freedom for the Cubanpeople. We havealreadyinitiated a dialogueon afeasof mutual concem- gafe,legal, and orderly migration, and reestablishingdirect mail service. Theseare small steps,
but an importantpart of a processto move U.~.-Cuban relations in a new and more positive, direction. Achieving a more normal relationship,however,will require actionby the Cubangovernment. QUESTION 5: IN A HYPOTHETICAL U.S.-CUBA DIALOGUE, WOULD YOU ENTERTAIN PARTICIPA TION FROM THE CUBAN EXILE COMMUNITY, THE CUBA-BASED OPPOSITIONGROUPSAND NASCENT CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS? When consideringany policy decision,it is critical to listen to asmany diverse voicesaspossible. When it comesto Cuba,we do exactly that. The U.S. governmentregularly talks with groupsand individuals inside and outsideof Cuba that have an interestin our relations. Many do not alwaysagreewith the Cuban government;many do not alwaysagreewith the United Statesgovernment;and many do not agreewith eachother. What we shouldall be able to agreeon moving forward is the needto listen to the concernsof Cubanswho live on the island. This is why everythingyou are doing to project your voice is so important - not just for the advancementof the freedomof expressionitself, but algofor peopleoutsideof Cubato gain a betterunderstandingof the life, struggles,joys, and dreamsof Cubanson fue island. .
QUESTION 6: YOU STRONGLy SUPPORTTHE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES. BUT, CUBANS CONTINUE TO HA VE LIMITED ACCESSTO THE INTERNET. HOW MUCH OF THIS IS DUE TO THE U.S. EMBARGO AND HOW MUCH
OF IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITYOF THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT?
My administrationhastaken important stepsto promotethe free flow of informationto and from the Cubanpeopleparticularly through new technologies. We havemadepossiblegreatertelecommunicationslinks to advanceinteraction betweenCubancitizens and fue outsideworld. This will increasethe means throughwhich Cubanson the island can communicatewith eachother andwith personsoutsideof Cuba,for example,by expandingopportunitiesfor fiber optic and satellitetransmissionsto and from Cuba. This will not happenovemight. Nor will it haveits full effect without positive actionsby the Cubangovernment. 1 understandthe Cubangovernmenthasannounceda plan to provide Cubansgreater
accessto the Internet at post offices. I am following this developmentwith interest and urge the governmentto allow its peopleto enjoy unrestrictedaccessto fue internetandto information. In addition,we welcomesuggestionsregardingafeas in which we can further supportthe free flow of information within, from, andto Cuba. QUESTION 7: WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO TRAVEL TO OUR COUNTRY? 1would neverrule out a courseof actionthat could advancethe interestsof the United Statesand advancethe causeof freedomfor the Cubanpeople. At the same time, diplomatic tools shouldbe usedonly after careful preparationandaspart of a clear strategy. 1 look forward to visit a Cubain which all citizens enjoy the same rights and opportunitiesas other citizensin the hemisphere.