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President Obama and President Castro walk by Cuban troops holding the Cuba and American flags during an official welcoming ceremony in Havana.
(Pete Souza/Instagram image)

By NAN Contributor

News Americas, HAVANA, Cuba, Weds. Mar. 23, 2016: Cuban President Raul Castro certainly showed a welcoming side in public to President Obama Tuesday but got plain testy with journalists questioning the country’s human rights policies and whether they are holding political prisoners. The presser got Castro so riled up that after a question from Andrea Mitchell of NBC, he took a clear jab at the U.S. education and health care system and the fact that women earn less than men in the most developed nation on earth.

Asked whether the U.S. and Cuba can “have civilized coexistence at the same time you have such profound disagreements about the very definitions of what human rights means,” the Cuban President got clearly testy, insisting he only meant to answer one question and had answered one-and-a-half.

But he took the opportunity to zone in like a laser on the “human rights” portion of the question, insisting that out of the 61 instruments of human and civil rights instruments recognized globally, Cuba has complied with 47.

President Obama and President Castro at a press conference on March 22, 2016. (Pete Souza/Instagram image)

He insisted that the issue “should not be politicized” and then proceeded to ask – in what was a clear jab at the lopsided U.S. health care system, its fee for education structure and the imbalance of pay for the genders – “Do you think there’s any more sacred right than the right to health, so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicament?. Do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country?  I think many countries don’t think this is a human right.”

He then proceeded to detail that “in Cuba, all children are born in a hospital and are registered that same day, because when mothers are in advance pregnancy they go to hospitals days before, many days before delivery, so that all children are born in hospitals.”

“We have many other rights — a right to health, the right to education,” said the President, while insisting that in Cuba, women get the same pay for the same work.

“Do you think that for equal work, men get better paid than women just for the fact of being women?,” he asked.

Castro also got touchy early on in the presser when asked by US journalist Jim Acosta about releasing political prisoners. Castro asked Acosta to repeat the question and then proceeded to request a list of the “prisoners.”

“Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” he said. “Just mention a list.  What political prisoners?  Give me a name or names.  After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners.  And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”

He also wrapped up the press conference with a reference again to the issue stating before leaving the room: “It’s not correct to ask me about political prisoners in general.  Please give me the name of a political prisoner.”

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