Back dropped by a monument depicting Cuba’s revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara, U.S. President Barack Obama listens to the U.S. national anthem during a ceremony at the Jose Marti Monument in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 21, 2016. “It is a great honor to pay tribute to Jose Marti, who gave his life for independence of his homeland. His passion for liberty, freedom, and self-determination lives on in the Cuban people today,” Obama wrote in dark ink in the book after he laid a wreath and toured the memorial dedicated to the memory of Jose Marti. (AP Photo/Dennis Rivera) – Puerto Rico OUT
The leaders’ press conference has resulted in an extraordinary interchange between CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a second-generation Cuban-American, and Raul Castro, a figure of absolute authority in Cuba who is never subjected to aggressive questioning by the state-controlled press or exposed to questions from independent foreign reporters.
When asked why Cuba has political prisoners, Castro testily addressed Acosta directly, saying “Give me the list now of political prisoners to release … if there are political prisoners they’ll be free before nightfall.”
Cuba is criticized for briefly detaining demonstrators thousands of times a year but has drastically reduced its practice of handing down long prison sentences for crimes human rights groups consider to be political. Cuba released dozens of political prisoners as part of its deal to normalize relations with Cuba and Amnesty International said in its 2015/2016 report that it knew of no prisoners of conscience in Cuba.