From Honduras' La Prensa:
U.S. President Barack Obama reassured the Cuban blogger, Yoani Sánchez, that he wishes “increased respect for the human rights and for political and economic freedoms” for the island, as stated today in her blog, “Generation Y.”
In response to the inquiry Sánchez wrote to him, Obama also stated that he supports a direct dialogue with the Cuban administration presided over by General Raúl Castro, but doesn’t want to “talk just for the sake of talking.” ...
Obama told Sánchez that his “administration is ready to establish diplomatic ties with the Cuban government in a couple of mutual interest areas,” as has been done in the talks regarding immigration issues and direct mail.
“It is also my intent to facilitate greater contact with the Cuban people, especially among divided Cuban families, which I have done by removing U.S. restrictions on family visits and remittances,” the president added. ...
“We have already initiated a dialogue on areas of mutual concern—safe, legal, and orderly migration, and reestablishing direct mail service. These are small steps, but an important part of a process to move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new and more positive, direction.”
Now, I suspect a lot of people are going to be surprised that Cubans not only have access to the internet but also can have blogs. That doesn't fit the picture painted for us over the last fifty years. Me, I was surprised that President Obama, or one of his staffers, took the time to respond to Ms. Sanchez' inquiry. After all, this has been an extraordinarily busy eleven months for the White House. Even I have to admit that the mere fact that a response was made is gratifying.
President Obama has in fact initiated some positive changes in our relations with Cuba, even if they are "small steps." What Mr. Obama is calling for, however, is some movement from the Cuban government, especially in the area of human rights, before going further, and that is disappointing.
No such pre-conditions are in place with respect to other nations with human rights issues. We deal regularly with some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet, among them China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in the Middle East. We even partner with them when it is in our economic and military interests to do so. The reasons usually given for such endeavors is that by engaging those nations in mutually beneficial projects we set the stage for substantive talks on the issues that worry us. Why should our relations with Cuba be any different?
Mr. Obama has done more than any administration since the Cuban Revolution to re-engage that island nation simply by talking to them on the limited issues mentioned in his reply to the blogger. Good on him. Now, however, it's time to move further and without any strings attached.
In other words, it's time for him to actually earn his Nobel Prize.