"Obama’s advisors posted on the Internet their English version of the president of the United States’ interview with journalists in Port of Spain," Castro writes.
He then quotes from the president’s press conference, quoting extensively from an exchange when President Obama didn’t-quite-answer my question about what changed his position from his 2004 stance against the embargo against Cuba and now supports it as leverage.*
Discussing his vision of U.S.-Cuban relations, President Obama said, "I think that as a starting point, it’s important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy, and the fact that you had Raul Castro say he’s willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that’s a sign of progress.
"And so we’re going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban merican families to send remittances. It turns out that Cuba charges an awful lot, they take a lot off the top. That would be an example of cooperation where both governments are working to help Cuban families and raise standards of living in Cuba.
"So there are going to be some ways that the Cuban government I think can send some signals that they’re serious about pursuing change. And I’m hopeful that over time the overwhelming trend in the hemisphere will occur in Cuba, as well. And I think that all of the governments here were encouraged by the fact that we had taken some first steps. Many of them want us to go further, but they at least see that we are not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born."
Writes Fidel: "Without any doubt, the president misinterpreted Raúl’s statement.
"On affirming that Cuba is prepared to discuss any issue with the president of the United States, the president of Cuba stated that he has no fear of approaching any issue whatsoever. That is a demonstration of courage and confidence in the principles of the Revolution. It should not come as a surprise to anybody that he spoke of pardoning those sentenced in March 2003 and sending them all to the United States, if that country would be prepared to release the five Cuban anti-terrorist heroes. The former individuals, as was the case with the Bay of Pigs mercenaries, are in the service of a foreign power that is threatening and blockading our homeland.
"On the other hand, the statement that Cuba charges an ‘awful lot’ and ‘takes a lot off the top’ [of remittances] is an attempt on the part of his advisors to cause a rift and divide Cubans. Every country charges certain sums for hard currency transfers. If they are dollars there is all the more reason to do so, because it is the currency of the state that is blockading us. Not all Cubans have families abroad who send remittances. Redistributing a relatively small part to the benefit of those most in need of food, medicine and other goods is absolutely fair. Our homeland does not have the privilege of converting into hard currency the bills that leave state printers, what the Chinese have frequently called "junk dollars," as I have repeated on various occasions, and which has been one of the causes of the current economic crisis. With what money is the United States saving its banks and multinationals, in its turn indebting future generations of U.S. citizens? Would Obama be disposed to discuss those issues?"
Fidel writes that during "the press conference and the final meetings of the Summit, Obama showed signs of smugness… When he stated, responding to Jake, that today, 2004 seemed like eons ago, that was superficial. Do we have to wait that many years for him to suspend his blockade? He didn’t invent it, but he has made it his just like the other 10 presidents of the United States. Going down that road a definite failure can be augured for him, like that of all his predecessors. That was not the dream of Martin Luther King, whose role in the struggle for human rights will more and more illuminate the way of the U.S. people."
Castro then concludes with this odd note: "We are living in new times. Changes are inevitable. Leaders pass, the peoples remain. We will not have to wait for thousands of years, just eight will be enough, until –- in a more heavily armored car, a more modern helicopter and a more sophisticated aircraft –- another president of the United States, doubtless less intelligent, promising and admired in the world than Barack Obama, occupies that inglorious office."
* (Castro identifies me as "Periodista Jake," or "Journalist Jake")