President Obama recently granted an interview to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, which was posted at her website Generation Y.
Sánchez, 34, was named one of TIME's 100 most influential people by blogging critically about the Cuban government; she emails entries to friends outside Cuba who post them for her. TIME wrote that "under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot; freedom of speech."
"Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba," President Obama says to her in the interview. "It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals."
Over the summer, Sánchez was honored as one of the winners of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism's “Marie Moors Cabot Prize," though the Cuban government denied her a visa to travel to accept the award.
"You richly deserve the award," President Obama told her in the interview, which was conducted through written submitted questions. "I was disappointed you were denied the ability to travel to receive the award in person."
A senior administration official calls the interview "another example of reaching out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their own future" and an example of the president "supporting a courageous voice in Cuba."
In the interview itself, President Obama repeats many of the same things he has said publicly about Cuba, such as when he lifted some restrictions earlier this year on travel, remittance, mail and business restrictions.
"We have already initiated a dialogue on areas of mutual concern – safe, legal, and orderly migration, and reestablishing direct mail service," he says. "These are small steps, but an important part of a process to move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new and more positive, direction. Achieving a more normal relationship, however, will require action by the Cuban government."
Asked if he would be willing to travel to Cuba, the president says, "I would never rule out a course of action that could advance the interests of the United States and advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people. At the same time, diplomatic tools should only be used after careful preparation and as part of a clear strategy. I look forward to visit a Cuba in which all citizens enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other citizens in the hemisphere."
Sánchez's support for the US lifting the travel ban was mentioned in Congressional debate on the issue.