For the first time since 1961, the President of the United States spoke with the President of Cuba this week—or, at least, the two spoke at each other. After President Obama spoke uninterrupted for 15 minutes (and promptly apologized for it), Raul Castro had his turn, doubling up Obama’s talking time, with no apology noted.
The president gave some of the details of the historic exchange to the press in his Friday briefing. The Weekly Standard reports:
Obama began the phone call with Castro with what he described as 15 minutes of opening comments. It was the first conversation between the heads of state in both countries since 1961.
“I apologized for taking such a long time,” Obama said. Castro responded by reminding Obama that the American president was still young enough to beat Castro’s brother, former Cuban president and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who once gave a seven-hour-long speech.
According to the president, Raul Castro proceeded to speak to Obama uninterrupted for 30 minutes.
Obama’s announcement this week that he was going to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba began with the disingenuous claim that he was making a deal with “the people of Cuba” (apparently not the tyrannical Castro regime). After somehow making the history of the embargo about himself, he laid out his instructions to the dutiful John Kerry:
First, I’ve instructed Secretary [of State John] Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961. Going forward, the United States will re-establish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba. […]
Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. This review will be guided by the facts and the law. Terrorism has changed in the last several decades. At a time when we are focused on threats from al-Qaida to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction. […]
Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba… it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island… we’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba… we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba. U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions… it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba. […]
As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo.