Cuban President Raul Castro became defensive with Cuban-American reporter Jim Acosta after his question about political prisoners on Monday, pretending not to hear the question and then insisting on being given a list of them if they did exist.
Earlier in the joint press conference with President Obama, Acosta asked questions of both Obama and Castro, asking the latter why Cuba had political prisoners and why the regime would not release them. Obama gave a lengthy answer to Acosta’s questions before Castro cut over him to ask if the question about political prisoners was directed at him.
“For him or for me?” Castro asked.
“For you, President Castro,” Acosta said.
“What did you say about political prisoners?” Castro asked through a translator. “Can you repeat that question about political prisoners? Did you ask if we had political prisoners? Did you ask if we had political prisoners?”
“I wanted to know if you have Cuban political prisoners and why you don’t release them,” Acosta said.
“Give me a list of the political prisoners, and I will release them immediately,” Castro said. ‘“Just mention the list. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names, or when 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.”
Politico noted Cuba released 53 political prisoners in December 2014, but people who speak out against the communist government are still arrested. Just hours before Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday for the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years, the government arrested more than 50 dissidents protesting for improved rights.