Rhodes: Cuba Views Political Prisoners as Having Broken Laws in Cuba

March 21, 2016

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes did not condemn the Cuba government's description of what a political prisoner is at a press briefing in Cuba Monday evening.

"It's their belief that they are not political prisoners, that they are in prison for various crimes and offenses against Cuban law," Rhodes said. "What we have said, again in Cuba or in any country around the world, is if someone is detained, imprisoned for a fundamentally, nonviolent political offense, like expressing yourself, like demonstrating, freedom of assembly, that those people are inherently in prison for political reasons."

At a joint press conference with President Obana, Castro was asked by CNN's Jim Acosta, a Cuban-American, about the state of Cuba's human rights. Castro became immediately agitated and asked for a list of political prisoners being held in the country.

"What political prisoners? Give me a name, or names, or 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," Castro said.

When Acosta asked Rhodes a  similar question during the press briefing, Rhodes touted that Cuba was moving away from long-term detention but instead continuously arresting and holding individuals for a short amount of time and then releasing them.

Rhodes said that the United States does monitor certain cases.

"I think the basic difference is the Cuban government's rejection that they are not in prison for violating their laws and our belief that either their laws or practices again crack down on certain types of behavior that we believe should be allowed in every country," Rhodes said. "However there are still people we follow their cases, we raise their cases with the government, we share lists with the government and just as we raise concerns about short-term detention practices."