“We Know That The Cuban State Has Essentially Continued The Same Repression” / 14ymedio

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US President Barack Obama, this February

A senior US State Department official speaking with 14ymedio expands on the reasons for the US president’s visit to Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 February 2016 — The United States government is aware that its approach to the Cuban government has not yet resulted in an increase in the rights of its citizens, but they trust that they are contributing to a climate that is conducive to it.

“We are not going to say that we have noticed great advances on questions of human rights. We know that the practice of detentions has continued, The Cuban State has fundamentally maintained the same repression,” declared a senior State Department official speaking to 14ymedio shortly after the announcement of President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba on March 21-22.

Among the few official advanced details from the White House it has been announced that the president will travel to the island accompanied by the first lady, Michelle Obama, as a first stop on another official visit, in this case to Argentina. The president will meet with Raul Castro and sectors of civil society among whom will be members of the opposition, according to sources in the State Department. However, initially ruled out is a meeting between Barack Obama and the former Cuban president and leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro.

According to State Department sources, the dissidents who will meet Barack Obama will come from all sectors, both those who have supported the policy of his administration and those who have been critical of it.

“We want to change the point of view of Cubans and the international community with respect to the policy of the United States and the Cuban government, when they see the poverty, backwardness and lack of opportunities and political liberties. Our goal is that they see with absolute clarity that these problems are caused by the policies of the Cuban government, not because of the United States nor the embargo,” said the senior US official.

Other sources in the Obama administration provided some details about the president’s visit to Cuba. The president will give a speech to the Cuban people in a place that has not yet been finalized and, in addition, will meet with opponents, the self-employed and religious leaders.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry was receptive to Washington’s announcement and said that “the US president will be welcomed by the Government of Cuba and its people, with the hospitality that characterizes us.”

Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s director general for the United States for the Foreign Ministry believes that this will be “an opportunity for President Obama to appreciate the Cuban reality and to continue discussions about the possibilities of expanding the dialog and bilateral cooperation on topics of mutual interest to both countries,” according to statements reported this Friday in the official newspaper Granma which, however, gave greater weight on its front page to the current visit of Peruvian president Ollanta Humala.

“It will be interesting to see how the Cuban press will cover the visit,” said the US State Department official to 14ymedio. “It will be difficult for them to conceal from their people the message President Obama will bring.”