After their formal meeting in communist Cuba, Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro took questions in a short but telling press conference. Obama’s speech looked forward to the dawning of a “new day” in Cuba, a grandiose pipe dream he’s spoken about ever since the leaders resumed diplomatic relations back in July of 2015. As the world watched in anticipation, media outlets swarmed with delight.
At CNN, reporters rejoiced, “Obama tells Raul Castro: Cuban embargo is going to end,” while over at ABC, “Obama and Castro Share Final Good-Bye After Historic Cuba Visit.”
But how historic was this clearly choreographed event? And while the geniuses at CNN so eloquently lauded our weak commander, where was the strong, resolute leader America needs?
Well, for those who saw through the façade, he must have been sipping mojitos with Michelle. The truth is, very little will change under Castro’s government, and chipping away at the regime’s decades of repressive rule won’t come overnight. A closer look at the events of the press conference and Obama’s time in Cuba sheds light on the POTUS’s false promises.
But first, consider Obama’s Cuban adventure from the world’s perspective. Leading up to and well after the televised question and answer, the two leaders gallivanted about the dangerous country in a series of blissful photo-ops.
Images captured the President, Michelle, and their two girls gleefully stepping off of Air Force One as if they’d touched down in paradise. Americans would die to see the bill for that security detail. Later, a trip to the embassy showed the First couple shaking hands and embracing excited staff.
Walking around Old Havana, the Obamas took in a museum, the national cathedral, and other sights. But across town, things weren’t looking so promising.
While the Prez mugged for cameras, the Ladies in White sat in jail cells in the capital, having been detained following a peaceful protest. Made up of political prisoners’ wives, the group has continuously fought over recent months for their loved ones’ release. Unfortunately, their efforts to gain Obama’s attention were to no avail.
Flash forward another day, and Barry and Raúl are chatting each other up at a Cuba-Tampa Bay baseball game. This picture perfect image of Cuban-American cooperation may be an ideal fit for our nation’s warped history books. But for those who actually watched the press conference, the future looks bleak.
Concerned with his dismal legacy, Obama appears hell bent on thawing out lingering Cold War tensions. He continues to champion putting power back in the hands of the Cuban people. But for those who know anything about Castro and his regime, talk is cheap—and Obama’s “historic” gesture is cheaper.
During the press conference, Obama came off as tediously rehearsed, while Castro’s candor was startling. When asked about the regime’s political prisoners, the communist commander played dumb: “Give me a list, and I’ll release them. If we have those prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”
No such luck.
As the American figurehead spewed idealistic niceties, Raúl Castro’s harsh retorts sent a clear message. The dictator has made no palpable reform to his government’s harsh communist policy. At one point in the press conference, Castro even had the gall to reference his people’s “universal” healthcare and access to education. His ridiculous attempt to align Cuba with the USA left many Americans watching in disgrace. Meanwhile, Obama smiled contently as the duo’s superficial call for human rights awkwardly concluded.
Right before cameras cut, the two men danced oddly as Obama leaned in for a sort-of hug. The Cuban president deflected, reaching out and grabbing Obama’s hand in what is now being called the limpest handshake in history. The scene was cringeworthy, to say the least.
So, what’s next for Obama’s call for change in Cuba and around the world? After all, his foretold legacy tells us he is a staunch defender of democracy and justice.
Perhaps the President needs to come back home and meet his ongoing criticism head on. In wake of the Cuba visit, Chris Christie and other citizens have voiced their disdain for Obama’s unwillingness to address the country’s harboring of cop-killer JoAnne Chesimard. Cuba has provided political asylum for the notorious Black Panther ever since she escaped from a New Jersey prison and fled to the island back in the 1980s.
There’s no conclusive news—yet—on the matter. But having happily appeased one of the harshest regimes in modern history, it’s safe to say Obama will sooner lift the economic embargo.