We’re doing everything we can here to support the Cuban people,” although “the list of challenges is long,” said the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in a telephone interview with DIARIO DE CUBA in which he highlighted the advantages that an improvement in relations between Havana and Washington would bring to the island, while warning that this would only be possible if the regime “renounces its oppressive behavior.”
Mr. Secretary of State, in July 2018 you asked Havana to establish a dialogue on human rights in Cuba. What aspects about the current state of human rights in Cuba concern you most right now, and what would you say to Cubans about it?
So, Pablo, the reality is, that we’re doing everything we can here to support the Cuban people, including their human rights. And you see this, right. You see with [journalist] Roberto Quinones and his recent detention. You see the way that – we had a religious freedom ministerial, there were pastors coming here to Washington to attend, just to talk about this basic human right, and the Cuban government wouldn’t permit them to travel here.
So the list of challenges is long. We know the story of the Ladies in White, right. This is a government that has denied these most basic freedoms to the Cuban people. And so our work has been to raise the cost for this behavior from the Cuban regime, to work to convince them, and to make them pay a price for this bad behavior. I would urge the Cuban people to continue to stand up for their freedoms, to continue to demand these basic rights to worship and express their conscience. This is something that is central to every nation in the world, and the Cuban people deserve these rights just as much as any other human being.
Your Government has applied Title Three of the Helms-Burton Act, sanctioned companies and restricted the travel of your citizens to Cuba. In addition, it is trying to prevent the arrival of Venezuelan oil to the island. What would be the next steps in terms of its policy towards Havana?
Pablo, I don’t want to get out in front of actions that we may take, but your description of our efforts I think is about right. I’ve heard stories from the Cuban regime that says that these actions are responsible for the difficult economy in Cuba, but the truth is, as you well know, Cuba is responsible for – the Cuban leadership is responsible for the failing economy. I was reading just the other day that there’s an index of freedom, and Cuba is 178th out of 180, freer only than Venezuela and the DPRK. This kind of state-controlled government fails to deliver on behalf of the citizens anyplace it is practiced, and that’s certainly the case in Cuba today. And so please make sure the Cuban people understand that this administration is determined to raise the costs for the power being used to benefit just the regime and the senior leaders in Cuba, and to enable the Cuban people to have the opportunities to build out on the enormous resources that are in that country to make life better for ordinary Cubans.
There is a bipartisan initiative that has been put forth in the U.S. Congress, backed by senators who recommend granting political asylum to Cuban medical personnel who request it in third-party countries. What is your government’s position in regards to that initiative?
We’re looking at it. We want to evaluate any legislation that comes forward. We’ve not yet seen all the details of how that’s going to transpire. Our guiding principle – our guiding principle is always this when we think about our policy in Cuba and in Venezuela, and frankly in many parts of the world; our guiding principle always remains the same: Does this action that we take improve America’s capacity to get a good outcome for the citizens of Cuba? Can we deliver with American authority, American power, a set of criteria that lead us to a better place so that we can have – we want a friendly partner nation there. It’s going to take a government that fundamentally rethinks the way it treats its citizens and builds out its economy, and who its friends are in the world. Who really is the partner that the Cuban people want? That’s the United States of America. And we want to be that partner too. But with this regime in place, it just simply can’t happen.