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How Obama got Castro to promise political prisoners' release

Castro confuses with definition of political prisoner, human rights laws

Cuban President Raul Castro raises President Barack Obama's hand during a joint press conference at the Palace of the Revolution, Havana, Cuba, Monday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cuban President Raul Castro raises President Barack Obama's hand during a joint press conference at the Palace of the Revolution, Havana, Cuba, Monday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


HAVANA, Fla. – The awkward photo that most will remember about President Barack Obama's trip to Cuba shows him resisting Cuban President Raul Castro's attempt to raise his hands. 

Minutes before the photo, CNN's Abilio "Jim" Acosta, whose father is Cuban, had his moment. Obama turned to Castro and said, "Excuse me, second one [Acosta's question] was to you."

"For him or for me?" Castro asked Acosta. He raised his right hand aggressively and made a promise to Acosta: "Give me a list of political prisoners, and if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends."

Under Castro's definition of a political prisoner, in Cuba there are zero. The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission's Elizardo Sánchez Santa-Cruz claims there are 89. Some of them have been charged with espionage, revealing state secrets or violent crimes.

Politifact later claimed Castro's zero claim False and referenced 54 prisoners who appear on more than one list of political prisoners. 

Obama, who met with Sánchez Santa-Cruz in Havana, smiled. In 2015, Cuba agreed to release 53 prisoners, the U.S. classified as political prisoners. 

During the press conference, Castro complained about getting too many questions. Obama told Castro that NBC's Andrea Mitchell -- one of the country's most "esteemed" journalists --  had a question for him. Mitchell asked him about human rights in Cuba. 

Castro seemed confused. He said there are 61 "instruments of human rights" and Cuba "has complied with 47." 

Was he referring to the United Nation's General Assembly's adoption of 61 resolutions on human rights in 2004? Was he talking about the UN's Human Rights Council, a government body made up of 47 States? Did he mean to reference The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law enacted in 1948, which has 30 articles?

What in the world was Castro talking about? Reporters couldn't ask for clarification. Castro rambled. He checked his watch. And seconds later, he complained about Acosta's question. 

"It's not correct to ask me about political prisoners," Castro said before ending the press conference. 

 


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