DC PREV: Week Ahead
WASHINGTON LOOKS TO THE SKIES ON A MATTER OF ISSUES THAT MAY AFFECT YOU AS A TRAVELER... FROM THE UNITED AIRLINES/ U.S. AIRWAYS MERGER TO THE SAFETY OF ALASKA AIR.. HOW IS THE CONSUMER AFFECTED. WHILE, DNA TESTING FOR CONVICTED CRIMINALS AND MORE FROM THOSE MILLION MOMS FOR GUN CONTROL TOP THE AGENDA ON CAPITOL HILL.
AFP-60W 35mm; AFP-60X 35mm; VTM-60W Beta SP; NET-373 Beta SP (60W at 01:00:00:00, 60X at 01:25:15:00); DigiBeta
JOHN F KENNEDY (JFK) - Pt 1 - Pt. 5
ROS-LEHTINEN: CUBA TOUR
CLEAN : Trump's tough Cuba line scores big in Little Havana
President Donald Trump's new measures restricting some trade and travel with Cuba did not go very far in practical terms but they made a big noise in the place most eager to hear it: Miami's Little Havana neighborhood (Footage by AFPTV via Getty Images)
US Cuba Demos - Pro- and anti-Cuba demonstrations face-off against each other in Washington
TAPE: EF03/0454 IN_TIME: 23:05:09 DURATION: 2:34 SOURCES: APTN RESTRICTIONS: DATELINE: Washington DC - 17 May, 2003 SHOTLIST: 1. Wide shot of Cuban Interest section and pro-Castro demonstrators standing by building's entrance 2. Mid shot of pro-Castro demonstrators holding signs calling for an end to the US blockade 3. Mid shot of anti-Castro demonstrators holding sign saying "Terrorism" 4. Mid shot of man holding picture and banner calling for freedom to political prisoners in Cuba 5. Traveling through pro-Castro demonstrators outside Cuban interest section 6. SOUNDBITE (English) Adrian Boutureira, pro-Cuba demonstrator: "We have come out in anticipation of what was planned to be an anti-Cuba demonstration. We are here trying to promote the respect for the sovereignty of Cuba as a nation in anticipation to what we perceived to be an increase in the rhetoric against Cuba in terms of accusing Cuba of harbouring biological weapons, accusing Cuba of harbouring terrorists, in other words, we are hearing the same rhetoric that led up to the invasion of Iraq and we are very concerned that the sovereignty of Cuba is in jeopardy." 7. Close up of Cuban Interest Section and Embassy of Switzerland sign 8. Tilt from Interest section building to pro-Castro demonstrators 9. Mid shot of woman holding Cuban flag 10. Men holding sign saying "Lift the Travel Ban" 11.SOUNDBITE (English) Rafael Cervantes, anti-Castro demonstrator: "At the present moment Fidel Castro is a terrorist as was described by the acts that he is committing. He is supporting terrorist organisations, he is training terrorists in Cuba and we believe that he has weapons of mass destruction in Cuba. It hasn't been proven yet but we are very suspicious of the anthrax attacks in Washington and Castro's interests in the postal service and how it operates in Cuba, if that is the case Castro should learn from the lesson of Saddam Hussein and he should consider very carefully what he does with the Cuban people." 12. Mid shot of anti-Castro demonstrators 13. Mid shot of pro-Castro demonstrators 14. Pan from anti-Castro demonstrators to Interest Section building STORYLINE: Protesters from an anti-Castro group, the "Coalition for Cuban Freedom," held a demonstration in Washington on Saturday to call for democracy in Cuba and alleged that Fidel Castro is supporting terrorist organisations. A second group of protesters, who object to the U.S. government's policies towards Cuba decided to stage a counter-demonstration, and turned up at the same location, outside the Cuban Interest Section offices, which are located inside the grounds of the Swiss embassy. The pro-Cuba protesters were calling for the lifting of the travel band to the Caribbean island. Earlier this year, George W. Bush's administration dropped a Clinton-era "people-to-people" policy aimed at increasing contacts between ordinary Americans and Cubans. Under the policy, the US government granted licenses to academics, athletes, scientists and others to travel to Cuba for exchange programmes. One of the protesters calling for Cuban leader Fidel Castro's removal, accused him of training terrorists and alleged that he may have been involved in the anthrax attacks that occurred in the US during 2001.
US Bush Cuba - President comments on democracy and freedom in Cuba
TAPE: EF02/0428 IN_TIME: 23:17:24 DURATION: 2:33 SOURCES: POOL RESTRICTIONS: DATELINE: Washington DC, 20 May 2002 SHOTLIST: 1. Wide shot President Bush walking into the East Room of the White House 2. SOUNDBITE: (English) George W. Bush, US President: "Today and every day for the past 43 years, that legacy of courage has been insulted by a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. That legacy has been debased by a relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison." 3. Wide shot of Bush speaking 4. SOUNDBITE: (English) George W. Bush, US President: "It's important for Americans to understand, without political reform, without economic reform, trade with Cuba will merely enrich Fidel Castro and his cronies." 5. Wide shot of audience applauding 6. SOUNDBITE: (English) George W. Bush, US President: "If Cuba's government takes all the necessary steps to ensure that the 2003 elections are certifiably free and fair - certifiably free and fair - and if Cuba also begins to adopt meaningful market-based reforms, then and only then, I will work with the United States Congress to ease the ban on trade and travel between our two countries." 7. Wide shot of Bush speaking STORYLINE: President Bush says he won't heed calls to lift the Cuban trade embargo unless Fidel Castro accepts a list of tough U-S conditions for a "new government that is fully democratic." In a Cuban Independence Day speech at the White House on Monday, Bush challenged the Communist leader to free political prisoners, hold open elections and unshackle the Cuban economy. He said the process should start with Cuba's National Assembly voting next year. Bush's speech, which aides said has been in the works since January, came a week after former President Carter travelled to Cuba and urged the people to embrace democracy. At the same time he called on the US to lift the 40-year-old trade embargo. Carter and other critics of US policy towards Cuba argue that the restrictions have failed to end Castro's regime while making life tough on ordinary Cubans. But Bush on Monday reiterated his administration's stance, insisting that political and economic reform would only serve to benefit and enrich Castro. However, seeking to balance his hard-line policy with sensitivity to Cuba's grinding poverty, he also outlined administration actions designed to make life better for the Cuban people. One initiative would be to resume direct mail service to and from Cuba. The president said if all his conditions were met, he would support lifting the congressionally mandated trade ban - even if Castro is still in charge. But some officials warn that Bush does not believe Castro will making the necessary changes, prompting the new policy designed to foment change from within the country. Bush was due to travel to Miami later in the day to address Cuban-Americans eager to hear his anti-Castro rhetoric. Bush has been accused of shaping his policy to win support of Cuban-Americans, a force in Florida politics and thus a key to his re-election hopes.
BERMAN-TRAVEL BAN
BUSH NEWS CONFERENCE (1991)
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH’S NEWS CONFERENCE
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CUBA TRAVEL HEARING PT3
Cuba Castro - President's address to mark Revolution Day
TAPE: EF02/0631 IN_TIME: 22:40:38 DURATION: 2:32 SOURCES: CUBAVISION RESTRICTIONS: DATELINE: Ciego De Avila - 26 July 2002 SHOTLIST: 1. Shot of cheering crowd waving Cuban flags 2. Shot of Cuban leader Fidel Castro waving the Cuban flag to the crowd 3. Wide shot of Cuban people gathered during Fidel Castro's speech 4. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Fidel Castro: "I would like to express our people's gratitude to both the Democratic and Republican legislators who on that day (Tuesday) acted intelligently and strongly, following their own beliefs. We'll always be on America's side in their struggle to preserve the lives and interests of their people, who might become innocent victims of criminal, terrorist attacks." 5. Shot of cheering crowd waving flags 6. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Fidel Castro: "The world is crumbling down and here, we don't have any children without schooling, no barefoot beggars, thirteen vaccines protect our children's health. Our infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world." 7. Shot of cheering crowd waving flags 8. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Fidel Castro: "There are infinite social and humane advantages in our system. We'll leave many industrialized countries behind in some of life's fundamental areas, and all of them in areas like education and culture, massive scientific knowledge and other spheres. We haven't numbered them all." 9. Wide shot of crowd during the speech 10. Woman in the crowd waving Cuban flag STORYLINE: Fidel Castro on Friday said efforts by members of the U.S. Congress to ease sanctions against Cuba were so important that it doesn't matter if U.S. President George W. Bush vetoes the measures. Castro was commenting during his annual address marking the start of the Cuban revolution. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Ciego De Avila to hear the speech. Courting a presidential veto, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba that have been in place for more than four decades - except when they were lifted briefly during the administration of President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. The House also voted to remove hurdles on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba and lift the caps on money that Cuban-Americans can send relatives in Cuba. The measures now go to the Senate. The White House said this week in a statement that the president would be urged to veto the spending bill containing those measures if it included an end to the travel ban. Castro also reiterated his earlier statements that Cuba supported American efforts to end international terrorism while still opposing U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Earlier in his speech, Castro painted an apocalyptic vision of impending financial disaster caused by global capitalism. The annual celebration marks the anniversary of the July 26, 1953 attack by Castro and his followers on an army barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution. Castro almost always gives the key address at the annual July 26 celebration, held in a different city each year. This year, the Communist Party leadership chose the central provincial capital of Ciego de Avila, population 85 thousand because of its economic gains in agriculture and tourism.
HOUSE CUBA HRNGS.
Cuba Food Fair Preview - Exhibitors setting up ahead of joint Cuban-US Food Fair
TAPE: EF02/0818 IN_TIME: 03:03:00 DURATION: 2:37 SOURCES: APTN RESTRICTIONS: DATELINE: Havana - 25 Sept 2002 and Recent SHOTLIST: September 25 1. Wide interior shot of food fair being set up 2. Mid shot of exhibition hall 3. People stacking food goods on display 4. Tilt up of food stand showing Marsh products 5. Set up shot of Patty Judge, Secretary for Agriculture, Iowa 6. SOUNDBITE: (English) Patty Judge, Secretary for Agriculture, Iowa "This one is very difficult because of our lack of diplomatic relations. We had to jump through a lot of hoops and we had to obtain licenses in order to be here and it was not easy. We hope that that will change. We hope that there will be a normalisation of trade relations between our two countries very soon. That is good for us in the heartland of the US and the agricultural states and we look forward to that". 7. Cut away of preparations underway 8. Wide of preparations 9. Cliff Kaehler, 13, and Seth Kaehler, 11, brushing down livestock 10. SOUNDBITE: (English) Seth Kaehler, Kaehlers Homedale Farm, Minnesota A: "Me and my brother, I think, are the first kids in St Charles to be in Cuba". Q: "Do they want to hear from you when you get back?" A: "Yes. I am going to do. I am e-mailing my class in St Charles and I am going to do a report and bring some stuff back". 11. Various cut away shots of livestock on display 12. Various of preparing a VIVA Cuba drink display 13. SOUNDBITE: (English) US Food Fair participant (no name) "Actually we are here trying to find an importer into Cuba and if I can find an importer I will be very, very happy". 14. Cutaways of preparations for fair underway September 20 15. SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Fidel Castro, President of Cuba "When that happens we will have to look around for somewhere to move to - meaning that is what it will be like when a million Americans arrive, and go traveling around the republic. And I know north Americans". September 25 16. Mid shot of US Stars and Stripes flag alongside Cuban flag, outside exhibition hall STORYLINE: Hundreds of American exhibitors were setting up stands on Wednesday ahead of the inauguration this week of Cuba's first US Food and Agribusiness show. The event counts exhibitors from 33 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which collectively manufacture or distribute more than 3,000 different products. Florida has the most exhibitors with 32, followed by Illinois with 21. Pedro Alvarez, head of the Cuban food import concern Alimport, said earlier this week the show is likely to produce a significant number of contracts for US food and agricultural products on the island. Cuba is hoping the event will help influence a continuing US debate on whether to end four decades of trade sanctions and lift a ban on most Americans from traveling to the communist island. President George W. Bush, backed by Cuban exiles in south Florida, says he will not allow any easing of restrictions until Cuba embraces democratic and economic reforms. But a growing number of lawmakers from farm states, including many Republicans, support legislative efforts to ease or eliminate the restrictions. Thirteen-year-old Cliff Kaehler and his 11-year-old brother Seth were among the younger participants in the food fair - as members of a family farming business out of Minnesota. The boys, fifth-generation farmers from St. Charles, Minnesota, arrived in Cuba over the weekend with their parents and the first American livestock sold to Cuba in 40 years of US trade sanctions against the island. In an exception to the sanctions, the US Congress approved a 2000 law that allowed the first direct commercial sales of American food to Cuba in four decades. Since it began taking advantage of the law in November, Cuba has purchased about 140 (M) million US dollars worth of American food, including corn, rice, wheat, frozen chicken parts, beans, turkey, apples, peas, eggs, onions, and pork lard.
GW BUSH SPEECH AT CUBAN INDEPENDENCE DAY RALLY - STIX
POTUS - Bush takes part in Cuban Independence Day Celebration Miami, Florida - RS 20 - Pool 3 Switch to RS23 - Pool 4 5/20/02 Minor hits throughout both tapes. switch to pool 4 tape towards the end. spot marked in log. 15:36:29, pool 3 audio goes out of sync. Pool 4 tape only has back end of speech. 14:58:01 enter Bush to the stage 14:58:04 wide shot of waving to cheering and standing ovation 14:58:58 Gloria Estefan enters the stage, sings Cuban Natl. Anthem. 15:00:32 ws of estefan on stage singing. Before that was tighter on gloria 15:01:02 ms of the brothers bush (george and jeb) 15:01:58 john secada sings the national anthem (ms. Pull back to ws). 15:03:45 introducer speaks in spanish. 15:05:43 introduce jeb. people stand. jeb to podium.standing ovation 15:06:39 he speaks in spanish.. I can't translate. 15:10:14 he announces his brother. they hug. bush to the podium. POTUS: 15:10:34 Thank you all. pull back to ws 15:10:48 thank you very much. 15:10:53 sientase. 15:12:00 Yo hablar en espanol hoy. Pero No. 15:12:13 here to honor the cubans and the cuban americans. 15:12:21 we are here today to proclaim loudly and clearly to the entire world that the cuban's people's love of liberty can not and will not be denied. 15:13:14 not only today will we remind the world how much we love and long for freedom. 15:13:27 proposal and a challenge that will help 15:13:44 Want to thank mi hermanito, el gran governor del esta estado. 15:14:08 thank mel martinez, who makes a big difference in our cabinet. 15:14:27 want to thank the two us senators from florida for being here. 15:14:57 thank two fine. iliana ross. 15:15:17 every time I hear gloria estefan. 15:15:55 honored to be travelling with otto reich (undersec at the state department) 15:16:50 today when I landed in miami I had a chance to meet a young man named julio rodriguez. 15:17:08 the reason I bring up emilio. how best to. treat a country is to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. 15:17:35 he's a 19 year-old honors student at community college. 15:17:52 thank you for being here. 15:18:04 these are a small handful of the million americans of cuban dissent who 15:18:21 greatness of america that opens her doors so people can realize their dreams. 15:18:43 the success stories are unbelievable. been able to raise their families and been able to prosper. 15:19:01 not just a story of the 15:19:41 he comes in 1995. he's going to be the first person from his high school to attend harvard university 15:20:00 I want to read what miguel wrote in his application essay 15:20:12 want all americans to listen: "born in a place where the sun shines brightest in frowns and tears. Santa claus has not the visa to enter. where hopes are shadowed and religion is an endangered species and freedom is in shackles. 15:20:59 essential that we remember the shackles of freedom that miguel wrote about. 15:21:11 cuba is not free. I want to thank you for your poignancy. 15:21:38 the shackles that this young man wrote about are an insult to the freedom that .. Wrote about. 15:21:58 insult to jose martin 15:22:06 we stand here today to declare loud and lear 15:22:16 cuba must not only be independent. Cuba must be free. 15:22:46 100 years ago cuba declared her independence and 50 years ago cuba's independence was taken away by a dictator 15:23:16 in an era where markets have brought prosperity. this leader clings to a bankrupt ideology that brings nothing but isolation and misery. 15:23:43 the cuban regime banned the sale of computers to the public. 15:23:54 in an era where every other nation in our hemisphere has chosen the path to democracy, this leader chooses to jail and exile the cuban people for speaking their minds. 15:24:22 the amazing thing is through all the pains the cuban's people desire for freedom is undiminished.. 11,000 civilians in cuba have signed a petition. prelude to real change in cuba. 15:24:59 this country has no designs on 15:25:31 nowhere is that support stronger than right here in the streets of miami florida. 15:26:35 rythmic clapping in unison 15:26:41 earlier today in la casa blanca. 15:27:04 challenge cuba's government to make these elections free. And to make them fair. 15:27:17 to make them. must give opposition candidates the ability to assemble and speak. 15:27:36 must release all political prisoners so they can participate in the elections. 15:27:59 they must let human rights organizations. 15:28:08 once the 2003 elections are declared free and once they move to meaningful economic reform. 15:28:19 then and only then I will explore ways with the us congress to ease economic sanctions. Clapping. 15:28:58 for 43 years every election in cuba has been a fraud and a sham. 15:29:17 Mr. Castro. Once. Just once. Show the world you are unafraid of a free election 15:30:23 the goal of our policy toward cuba is not a permanent embargo. Our goal is freedom for cuba's people. 15:30:47 full normalization of relations. will only be possible when cuba has a new government 15:32:15 today I want to talk about some steps we can take. 15:32:22 my administration releases 15:32:32 directly serve the needs of the cuban people and serve to create a cuban 15:32:46 the us will provide such groups with direct assistance 15:32:58 our government will offer scholarships for students and professionals and for the children of political prisoners. 15:33:29 we are willing to negotiate direct mail sevice between the us and cuba. look for ways to modernize radio and tv. 15:33:54 listen to . hasten the inevitable march toward freedom. 15:34:09 mr. Castro must now act. given an opportyunity. we will continue to enforce economic sanctions and ban travel until cuba's government shows real economic reform. 15:35:57 they get to keep the hard currency as opposed to going to the cuban government. 15:36:10 we know what the cuban government is up to. We trade in hard currency. They pay in pesos and keep the difference 15:36:29 line the pockets of fidel castro and his cronies. SWITCH TO POOL 4 tape - RS 23 15:37:03 I say reform because we care about the people. 15:37:14 long for a day when they realize the same freedoms we have here in america. 15:37:26 underwrite tyranny. And we cannot let that happen. 15:37:36 will not let our VIVA CUBA LIBRE
GW BUSH SPEECH AT CUBAN INDEPENDENCE DAY RALLY - STIX
POTUS - Bush takes part in Cuban Independence Day Celebration Miami, Florida - RS 20 - Pool 3 Switch to RS23 - Pool 4 5/20/02 Minor hits throughout both tapes. switch to pool 4 tape towards the end. spot marked in log. 15:36:29, pool 3 audio goes out of sync. Pool 4 tape only has back end of speech. 14:58:01 enter Bush to the stage 14:58:04 wide shot of waving to cheering and standing ovation 14:58:58 Gloria Estefan enters the stage, sings Cuban Natl. Anthem. 15:00:32 ws of estefan on stage singing. Before that was tighter on gloria 15:01:02 ms of the brothers bush (george and jeb) 15:01:58 john secada sings the national anthem (ms. Pull back to ws). 15:03:45 introducer speaks in spanish. 15:05:43 introduce jeb. people stand. jeb to podium.standing ovation 15:06:39 he speaks in spanish.. I can't translate. 15:10:14 he announces his brother. they hug. bush to the podium. POTUS: 15:10:34 Thank you all. pull back to ws 15:10:48 thank you very much. 15:10:53 sientase. 15:12:00 Yo hablar en espanol hoy. Pero No. 15:12:13 here to honor the cubans and the cuban americans. 15:12:21 we are here today to proclaim loudly and clearly to the entire world that the cuban's people's love of liberty can not and will not be denied. 15:13:14 not only today will we remind the world how much we love and long for freedom. 15:13:27 proposal and a challenge that will help 15:13:44 Want to thank mi hermanito, el gran governor del esta estado. 15:14:08 thank mel martinez, who makes a big difference in our cabinet. 15:14:27 want to thank the two us senators from florida for being here. 15:14:57 thank two fine. iliana ross. 15:15:17 every time I hear gloria estefan. 15:15:55 honored to be travelling with otto reich (undersec at the state department) 15:16:50 today when I landed in miami I had a chance to meet a young man named julio rodriguez. 15:17:08 the reason I bring up emilio. how best to. treat a country is to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. 15:17:35 he's a 19 year-old honors student at community college. 15:17:52 thank you for being here. 15:18:04 these are a small handful of the million americans of cuban dissent who 15:18:21 greatness of america that opens her doors so people can realize their dreams. 15:18:43 the success stories are unbelievable. been able to raise their families and been able to prosper. 15:19:01 not just a story of the 15:19:41 he comes in 1995. he's going to be the first person from his high school to attend harvard university 15:20:00 I want to read what miguel wrote in his application essay 15:20:12 want all americans to listen: "born in a place where the sun shines brightest in frowns and tears. Santa claus has not the visa to enter. where hopes are shadowed and religion is an endangered species and freedom is in shackles. 15:20:59 essential that we remember the shackles of freedom that miguel wrote about. 15:21:11 cuba is not free. I want to thank you for your poignancy. 15:21:38 the shackles that this young man wrote about are an insult to the freedom that .. Wrote about. 15:21:58 insult to jose martin 15:22:06 we stand here today to declare loud and lear 15:22:16 cuba must not only be independent. Cuba must be free. 15:22:46 100 years ago cuba declared her independence and 50 years ago cuba's independence was taken away by a dictator 15:23:16 in an era where markets have brought prosperity. this leader clings to a bankrupt ideology that brings nothing but isolation and misery. 15:23:43 the cuban regime banned the sale of computers to the public. 15:23:54 in an era where every other nation in our hemisphere has chosen the path to democracy, this leader chooses to jail and exile the cuban people for speaking their minds. 15:24:22 the amazing thing is through all the pains the cuban's people desire for freedom is undiminished.. 11,000 civilians in cuba have signed a petition. prelude to real change in cuba. 15:24:59 this country has no designs on 15:25:31 nowhere is that support stronger than right here in the streets of miami florida. 15:26:35 rythmic clapping in unison 15:26:41 earlier today in la casa blanca. 15:27:04 challenge cuba's government to make these elections free. And to make them fair. 15:27:17 to make them. must give opposition candidates the ability to assemble and speak. 15:27:36 must release all political prisoners so they can participate in the elections. 15:27:59 they must let human rights organizations. 15:28:08 once the 2003 elections are declared free and once they move to meaningful economic reform. 15:28:19 then and only then I will explore ways with the us congress to ease economic sanctions. Clapping. 15:28:58 for 43 years every election in cuba has been a fraud and a sham. 15:29:17 Mr. Castro. Once. Just once. Show the world you are unafraid of a free election 15:30:23 the goal of our policy toward cuba is not a permanent embargo. Our goal is freedom for cuba's people. 15:30:47 full normalization of relations. will only be possible when cuba has a new government 15:32:15 today I want to talk about some steps we can take. 15:32:22 my administration releases 15:32:32 directly serve the needs of the cuban people and serve to create a cuban 15:32:46 the us will provide such groups with direct assistance 15:32:58 our government will offer scholarships for students and professionals and for the children of political prisoners. 15:33:29 we are willing to negotiate direct mail sevice between the us and cuba. look for ways to modernize radio and tv. 15:33:54 listen to . hasten the inevitable march toward freedom. 15:34:09 mr. Castro must now act. given an opportyunity. we will continue to enforce economic sanctions and ban travel until cuba's government shows real economic reform. 15:35:57 they get to keep the hard currency as opposed to going to the cuban government. 15:36:10 we know what the cuban government is up to. We trade in hard currency. They pay in pesos and keep the difference 15:36:29 line the pockets of fidel castro and his cronies. SWITCH TO POOL 4 tape - RS 23 15:37:03 I say reform because we care about the people. 15:37:14 long for a day when they realize the same freedoms we have here in america. 15:37:26 underwrite tyranny. And we cannot let that happen. 15:37:36 will not let our VIVA CUBA LIBRE
GW BUSH SPEECH AT CUBAN INDEPENDENCE DAY RALLY - STIX
POTUS - Bush takes part in Cuban Independence Day Celebration Miami, Florida - RS 20 - Pool 3 Switch to RS23 - Pool 4 5/20/02 Minor hits throughout both tapes. switch to pool 4 tape towards the end. spot marked in log. 15:36:29, pool 3 audio goes out of sync. Pool 4 tape only has back end of speech. 14:58:01 enter Bush to the stage 14:58:04 wide shot of waving to cheering and standing ovation 14:58:58 Gloria Estefan enters the stage, sings Cuban Natl. Anthem. 15:00:32 ws of estefan on stage singing. Before that was tighter on gloria 15:01:02 ms of the brothers bush (george and jeb) 15:01:58 john secada sings the national anthem (ms. Pull back to ws). 15:03:45 introducer speaks in spanish. 15:05:43 introduce jeb. people stand. jeb to podium.standing ovation 15:06:39 he speaks in spanish.. I can't translate. 15:10:14 he announces his brother. they hug. bush to the podium. POTUS: 15:10:34 Thank you all. pull back to ws 15:10:48 thank you very much. 15:10:53 sientase. 15:12:00 Yo hablar en espanol hoy. Pero No. 15:12:13 here to honor the cubans and the cuban americans. 15:12:21 we are here today to proclaim loudly and clearly to the entire world that the cuban's people's love of liberty can not and will not be denied. 15:13:14 not only today will we remind the world how much we love and long for freedom. 15:13:27 proposal and a challenge that will help 15:13:44 Want to thank mi hermanito, el gran governor del esta estado. 15:14:08 thank mel martinez, who makes a big difference in our cabinet. 15:14:27 want to thank the two us senators from florida for being here. 15:14:57 thank two fine. iliana ross. 15:15:17 every time I hear gloria estefan. 15:15:55 honored to be travelling with otto reich (undersec at the state department) 15:16:50 today when I landed in miami I had a chance to meet a young man named julio rodriguez. 15:17:08 the reason I bring up emilio. how best to. treat a country is to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. 15:17:35 he's a 19 year-old honors student at community college. 15:17:52 thank you for being here. 15:18:04 these are a small handful of the million americans of cuban dissent who 15:18:21 greatness of america that opens her doors so people can realize their dreams. 15:18:43 the success stories are unbelievable. been able to raise their families and been able to prosper. 15:19:01 not just a story of the 15:19:41 he comes in 1995. he's going to be the first person from his high school to attend harvard university 15:20:00 I want to read what miguel wrote in his application essay 15:20:12 want all americans to listen: "born in a place where the sun shines brightest in frowns and tears. Santa claus has not the visa to enter. where hopes are shadowed and religion is an endangered species and freedom is in shackles. 15:20:59 essential that we remember the shackles of freedom that miguel wrote about. 15:21:11 cuba is not free. I want to thank you for your poignancy. 15:21:38 the shackles that this young man wrote about are an insult to the freedom that .. Wrote about. 15:21:58 insult to jose martin 15:22:06 we stand here today to declare loud and lear 15:22:16 cuba must not only be independent. Cuba must be free. 15:22:46 100 years ago cuba declared her independence and 50 years ago cuba's independence was taken away by a dictator 15:23:16 in an era where markets have brought prosperity. this leader clings to a bankrupt ideology that brings nothing but isolation and misery. 15:23:43 the cuban regime banned the sale of computers to the public. 15:23:54 in an era where every other nation in our hemisphere has chosen the path to democracy, this leader chooses to jail and exile the cuban people for speaking their minds. 15:24:22 the amazing thing is through all the pains the cuban's people desire for freedom is undiminished.. 11,000 civilians in cuba have signed a petition. prelude to real change in cuba. 15:24:59 this country has no designs on 15:25:31 nowhere is that support stronger than right here in the streets of miami florida. 15:26:35 rythmic clapping in unison 15:26:41 earlier today in la casa blanca. 15:27:04 challenge cuba's government to make these elections free. And to make them fair. 15:27:17 to make them. must give opposition candidates the ability to assemble and speak. 15:27:36 must release all political prisoners so they can participate in the elections. 15:27:59 they must let human rights organizations. 15:28:08 once the 2003 elections are declared free and once they move to meaningful economic reform. 15:28:19 then and only then I will explore ways with the us congress to ease economic sanctions. Clapping. 15:28:58 for 43 years every election in cuba has been a fraud and a sham. 15:29:17 Mr. Castro. Once. Just once. Show the world you are unafraid of a free election 15:30:23 the goal of our policy toward cuba is not a permanent embargo. Our goal is freedom for cuba's people. 15:30:47 full normalization of relations. will only be possible when cuba has a new government 15:32:15 today I want to talk about some steps we can take. 15:32:22 my administration releases 15:32:32 directly serve the needs of the cuban people and serve to create a cuban 15:32:46 the us will provide such groups with direct assistance 15:32:58 our government will offer scholarships for students and professionals and for the children of political prisoners. 15:33:29 we are willing to negotiate direct mail sevice between the us and cuba. look for ways to modernize radio and tv. 15:33:54 listen to . hasten the inevitable march toward freedom. 15:34:09 mr. Castro must now act. given an opportyunity. we will continue to enforce economic sanctions and ban travel until cuba's government shows real economic reform. 15:35:57 they get to keep the hard currency as opposed to going to the cuban government. 15:36:10 we know what the cuban government is up to. We trade in hard currency. They pay in pesos and keep the difference 15:36:29 line the pockets of fidel castro and his cronies. SWITCH TO POOL 4 tape - RS 23 15:37:03 I say reform because we care about the people. 15:37:14 long for a day when they realize the same freedoms we have here in america. 15:37:26 underwrite tyranny. And we cannot let that happen. 15:37:36 will not let our VIVA CUBA LIBRE
WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING WITH JOSH EARNEST - STIX
Thursday, February 18, 2016 White House Briefing with Josh Earnest DC Slugs: 1230 WH BRIEF STIX FS37 73 & 1230 WH BRIEF CUTS FS38 74 AR: 16x9 Disc #991/975 & 936/976 NYFS: WASH3 (4523) / WASH4 (4524) 12:54:14 EARNEST: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. Nice to see a good crowd here today. I have, joining me at the briefing, the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes. As many of you know and have covered, Ben was instrumental in implementing the president's vision for advancing our Cuba policy. And we made a pretty historic announcement today that, next month, President Obama and the first lady will be traveling to Cuba. And so Ben is here to talk a little bit about what we hope to accomplish over the course of that trip. And then he'll stay and take as many questions as you all have about that trip. I shall also point out today is also the day that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training in Arizona. (LAUGHTER) So I know there are a lot of Royals fans that have opening day circled on their calendar because they're squaring off against Ben Rhodes' New York Mets in Kansas City. So a nice World Series rematch there. So Ben, do you want to do a little topper, and then we'll take questions? 12:55:12 RHODES: Josh, I'd point out Yoenis Cespedes will be reporting to the Mets spring training, so... EARNEST: That's good. That's good. (LAUGHTER) RHODES: ... in keeping with the Cuban theme here... EARNEST: Kendrys Morales... (CROSSTALK) RHODES: OK. So I'll just make a few opening comments. You saw the announcement that the president will be going to Cuba with the first lady on March 21st and 22nd. This is the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge. As we've noted, Calvin Coolidge traveled there on a battleship, so the optic will be quite different from the get-go here. But I just wanted to step back and put this in a little bit of context. Clearly this has been a sea change in terms of U.S. policy towards Cuba and U.S.-Cuban relations over the last year and a half since President Obama and President Castro announced on December 17th, 2014 that we would have a process of normalizing relations. So to date since we've made that announcement, there have been a number of steps forward. First of all, we intensively negotiated over several months the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which culminated in Secretary Kerry traveling to Havana and raising the flag over our embassy. This embassy allows us to much more actively engage the Cuban people and the Cuban government, to facilitate travel to Cuba from many different delegations from the United States and to pursue bilateral cooperation on a number of issues. And we've had an ongoing process of bilateral dialogues with the Cubans. What we've seen is enormous interest from the Cuban people in this opening, and from people in the United States. And we've had businesses travel down to Cuba, state and local governments, academic exchanges and a significant increase in American travel to Cuba. There's been a 54 percent increase in the number of Americans visiting Cuba since that announcement. I think we've also seen that the opening to Cuba holds out real promise to improve the lives of the Cuban people. And this is really at the core of our policy. Our judgment was that the embargo that was in place was doing nothing to achieve its stated aims of bringing about a political change in Cuba. In fact, the Castro government, under Fidel and then Raul Castro, had been in place for many decades, and it was also hurting the Cuban people because they were cut off from the United States. They were cut off, in many ways, from the world. And they were, again, not benefiting from U.S. policy. And we're seeking to reverse that dynamic. We've made a number of regulatory changes to increase travel and commerce to Cuba. Those, again, have had some benefits. The increased -- significant increases in remittances that go to Cuba -- that directly benefits Cuban families. The increased travel benefits the nascent Cuban private sector, the cuenta-propistas, shop owners, restaurant owners, U.S. companies like Airbnb have gone into Cuba. This is their fastest growing market. That means travelers staying directly in Cuban homes, benefiting the Cuban people. And increasingly, as businesses have gone down and had discussions with the Cuban government, we're finding out ways that they can establish a presence. And just earlier this week, (inaudible) announced it's going to start to operate the first U.S.- owned factory in Cuba that will provide tractors for small farmers. These are just some indications of the fact that increased trade, commerce and travel is going to benefit U.S. companies that are very interested in operating in Cuba, but ultimately, it's going to directly benefit the Cuban people. Now, we have the potential to significantly increase those travel lengths with the announcement that was made earlier this week, that we will be restoring direct flights between the United States and Cuba for the first time in several decades. That will allow up to 110 flights to Cuba every day. That's more people-to-people engagement and more opening between our two countries. We've raised a number of issues repeatedly with the Cuban government, in terms of steps that we think that they could take to improve conditions on the island, both economically and human rights. 12:59:33 We have seen some progress with respect to Internet access, in terms of additional wireless Internet hotspots and efforts to link neighborhood -- neighborhoods to broadband connections, but we'd like to see more in that space. And so we continue to indicate to the Cuban government that Internet connectivity is essential to the ability of the Cuban people to connect with the global economy. It also, again, advances their ability to access information. 13:00:11 RHODES: We've also been supportive of the reforms that have created more space for a private sector within Cuba, self-employed Cubans, again cuentapropistas. And this is an area where we believe we can continue to increase our economic engagement and seed reforms within Cuba that can empower the Cuban people. At the same time, we, of course, have significant differences with Cuba on issues related to human rights which we continue to raise directly with them. You know, they took some steps in releasing political prisoners and hosting the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross last year, but we'd like, of course, to see more respect for the basic fundamental rights of the Cuban people, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech. 13:00:45 So as we considered whether to go this year to Cuba, the president's judgment was that, number one. going to Cuba was an important step forward in signaling this new beginning between our two countries and peoples; and also importantly that going to Cuba could help enlarge this space that benefits the Cuban people and increases ties between our countries. And that in fact going earlier this year would allow us to try to get more done both around his visit and in the days and months that follow. 13:01:18 So what we'll be focusing on with respect to the visit is how can we take the changes we've made in our policies and regulations and try to connect them to changes and reforms that the Cubans are making so that there's more commercial activity, so that there's more of an opening for U.S. businesses, but importantly for Cubans to benefit from that activity and to be able to access more resources and, again, achieve a better life. How can we expand our people-to-people ties so that there's increased travel but also increased cooperation in a number of areas? And we've had good cooperation for instance, discussions on issues related to medical cooperation, cancer vaccines. There are other areas where we can expand our people-to-people engagement. 13:02:08 How are we supporting and encouraging efforts around, as I said, increased access to the internet and telecommunications in Cuba. How is Cuba, again, investing in this nascent private sector there. And, of course, how are we engaging not just the Cuban government but the Cuban people and Cuban society and speaking out for the human rights that we support around the world. And certainly on this trip, the president will have the opportunity to engage not just the Cuban government but Cuban civil society, Cuban entrepreneurs, Cubans from different walks of life. So it's an important opportunity, this trip. It's historic in nature. But also, we see it as a means of pushing forward this normalization process trying to achieve greater opening between the United States and Cuba commercially but also supporting and advancing the values that we care about, all of which taken together we believe will be enormously beneficial to the Cuban people and, frankly, to U.S. interests. Following the trip to Cuba, I'd just note the president will be traveling to Argentina. You know, the Cuba opening also has to be seen as part of an effort by the United States to significantly increase our engagement in the hemisphere. This is a region that had long rejected our Cuba policy. Our Cuba policy had, in fact, isolated the United States more than it isolated Cuba in the hemisphere. 13:03:33 Argentina is a country that, until recently, had a president who had, I'll say problematic relations with the United States. The new president there has indicated his interest in beginning and restoring and renewing U.S.-Argentina relations. That will be the business of that trip. So we'll be able to discuss how to increase our diplomatic, economic and other forms of cooperation. 13:04:22 I'll just close by saying that we've been engaging the Cuban government leading up to today, between -- but we've also been engaging the Cuban-American community that follows these issues very closely and will continue to do so. We've been engaging with our business community, with human rights advocates and we will continue to do so between now and the trip. And we believe at the end of the day, part of what makes the Cuba issue so unique is the interest and passion that Cuban-Americans feel about it. We want to make sure that we're hearing their voices as we prepare for what will be a truly historic occasion. 13:04:46 So I'll stop there and take questions. Yep, Jeff. QUESTION: Will the president meet with dissidents when he's in Cuba? And how would you negotiate that with the Cuban government? RHODES: Yes. He'll be meeting with dissidents; with members of civil society including those who certainly oppose the Cuban government's policies, just as when he went to Panama for the summit of the Americas and met with Raul Castro. He also met with critics of the Cuban government in his civil society roundtable. 13:05:20 I think the point we make to the Cuban government is that we engage civil society in countries around the world, that this is part of how the president does business. When he travels in different regions, he meets with a broad range of actors and Cuba is no different. So we may have a complex history but you know, the fact that we meet with and support people who are seeking to have their voices heard is part of what the United States does. And that doesn't mean that we're seeking to overthrow the Cuban government, it means that we're seeking to support basic universal values that, again, we would care about in any country. QUESTION: Do you expect him to see Fidel Castro while he's there? Do you expect this to be tied in any way to the Colombia peace talks? 13:06:07 RHODES: So I wouldn't expect him to meet with Fidel Castro. Raul Castro is now the president of Cuba. He'll certainly meet with President Castro. With respect to the Colombian peace process, we have had good cooperation from Cuba on that issue. The Cubans have hosted the talks between the Colombia government so far. We've had a representative, Bernie Aronson who's attending a number of those discussions. We and the Cubans together have worked to support the Colombians as they are pursuing a peace agreement. 13:06:51 I think it will certainly be a subject that we discuss with the Cuban government that the president discusses with President Castro. At the end of the day, as the president told President Santos when he was here, we want the best deal for Colombia and the Colombian people and that's what matters here. And we're willing to support that in any way we can. QUESTION: Back when, you know, the opening -- when the start of normalization was announced, you guys mentioned some things that you expected the Cuban government to do, including the release of those prisoners. But ahead of a presidential trip to Cuba, were there any conditions or was there anything specific that you expected them to meet before this happened? RHODES: Yes. So I think the basic question that we've explored, including discussions with Cubans is whether we could use demonstrate that normalization is making progress. There are very different types of steps each of us have to take. On the U.S. side we've been methodically reviewing and in some cases changing our regulations to allow for more travel and commerce and we will continue to do so in the weeks leading up to the trip. With respect to the Cubans, what we would like to see is that -- you know, they are taking the types of steps that allow those regulatory changes to take hold. That allow U.S. businesses to start and operate in Cuba in ways that benefit the Cuban people that allow for, again, greater opportunity and access to information for the Cuban people. 13:08:12 So, again, it's not as specific as the process we had with the Vatican in terms of the commitments that were announced on December 17th. But we do want there to be concrete progress that creates momentum for normalization, that demonstrates normalization benefits the Cuban people and the American people. And that frankly, it can help make the changes that we're pursuing irreversible going forward. So there's a range of steps that the Cuban government could take to advance that process. And we'll be continuing to discuss that with them in the coming weeks. Now, of course, on human rights we regularly raise a whole host of issues around certain cases of prisoners, certain patterns of detention and certain limitations on rights. That will be of course part of the discussion as well. Yes, Margaret? QUESTION: Since you announced this sort of normalization process, there's been a dramatic spike in the number of Cubans fleeing for the U.S. Are those numbers sustainable and is that wet foot/dry foot policy in the U.S. is something the president is going to address? 13:09:33 RHODES: So we've seen certainly an uptick in the number of Cubans, particularly Cubans traveling to central America as part of an effort to make their way to the United States. I think that's tied to perhaps expectations around our policy changes but also greater freedom of movement for Cubans to travel from Cuba. And frankly in some cases increased resources from some changes in our policies in other countries. We are not planning to institute change with respect to wet foot dry foot, but we do regularly, again, look at our broader migration policies. We have a dialogue with the Cubans about those issues. We've worked very closely with our Central American partners as they've dealt with this influx of Cubans, who are making their way to the United States. 13:10:29 So we will be addressing the migration issue. But again, our focus is on how can conditions improve in Cuba, so that over time, there's more economic opportunity and less of a need, frankly, for Cubans to have to pursue opportunity elsewhere. QUESTION: And will you be bringing a delegation of congressional members with you, particularly since you need congressional help to lift the embargo and those big things that are still in the way? 13:10:55 RHODES: We'll certainly want to incorporate members of Congress into the president's trip. There are a number of members who've been -- in both parties I should add, this is an issue that does engender bipartisan support. We will want to make sure that they're incorporated into what we're doing. QUESTION: Are you satisfied with what the Cuban government has done on human rights? You sound disappointed. RHODES: Look, I think -- I don't think we will be satisfied. I don't think we've been satisfied to date, and frankly, I think we're always going to have differences with this government because they have a different political system. At the same time, even with those kind of fundamental differences about how they organize their political system, we do think that there are steps that they can take that can improve conditions for the Cuban people and be a part of the evolution that is taking place on the island. Thus far, we've seen these incremental steps, with respect to internet access and connectivity. We've seen some incremental increase in their engagement with the international community on these issues. I mentioned the head of the ICRC. But we'd like to see more. QUESTION: Then why go now? RHODES: Because we believe not going and isolating Cuba doesn't serve to advance those issues. That we will be in a better position to support human rights, and to support a better life for the Cuban people by engaging them and raising these issues directly. And whether that's individual human rights cases we're concerned about, whether that's the types of reforms that could broaden opportunity for the Cuban people, or whether that's just how do we directly engage Cuban civil society, so that we are speaking out for the values that we support? Again, in our judgment, engagement is a far more effective means of addressing those issues than isolation. QUESTION: How concerned are you that all of this is still very reversible, is it not? 13:12:51 RHODES: So, we want to make this policy change irreversible. And that means that we want links between Cubans and Americans, and the links between our businesses and the engagement between our countries to gain such momentum that there's an inevitability to the opening that is taking place, and to the increase in activity between our countries. To be very specific, we have an embassy opened in Cuba. That embassy allows us to travel more widely across the region -- across the country to engage the Cuban people. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to shut down an embassy that we have open. You have significant increases in Americans traveling to Cuba -- that will only get higher as we institute direct flights and other measures. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to tell a lot of Americans that their government says they can't be allowed to travel to Cuba. We have a lot of interest from the business community and the Chamber of Commerce in supporting this opening. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to tell American businesses that they have to shudder projects that they have initiated in Cuba. So, our objective here is to do as much as we can with the time we have remaining to make this an irreversible policy. And frankly, I think the indications, to date, are that the American people support that. QUESTION: Thanks, Ben. QUESTION: On Guantanamo Bay, how do you anticipate the conversation going about the property there? And secondarily, will there be a conversation about reparations? There are a number of Cuban-Americans, in particular in South Florida, who lost potentially millions, if not billions in personal property and assets. Will that be part of discussion as well? RHODES: So on Guantanamo Bay, I'm sure that will be part of the discussion. I know that, because I've had that discussion many times with my Cuban counterparts. You know, they are insistent obviously that our presence there is not legitimate and that the facility be returned to them. But again, that is not on the table as a part of our discussions. We're focused on the range of issues that I discussed, but I'm sure they will raise it. It continues to be an issue of concern to them. RHODES: With respect to the claims issue, that will certainly be on the agenda as well. We have initiated under the State Department's leadership a dialogue with the Cubans on the issue of claims. There are many claimants in the United States. We've been engaging many of them to try to determine the best way forward to see that, again, their -- their concerns are satisfied. So the Cubans also, frankly, have a substantial number of claims against us as well. So, there's a formal dialogue on claims and I think it will be part of the agenda as well. QUESTION: Just so I can circle back quickly on the prison, that is not going to be part of this? There's no way the government is going to give that back. There's not going to be a provision to give that back. That is not a part of this trip. RHODES: That's not a part of this trip. Yes? QUESTION: Who determines which dissidents the president will meet with? Is that something that's negotiated? Do you already have -- is that something that's already been discussed? 13:16:09 RHODES: We determine, you know, who we, you know, meet with in different countries. And we've certainly indicated to the Cubans that this is something the president will be doing on this trip, as he does on other trips. Yes? 13:16:18 DEVIN DWYER QUESTION: I was hoping you could flesh out why now. You've talked previously about using the prospect of the president's trip as something of a carrot to get some of the concrete progress that you are hoping to see. You know, previously, you've said that you'd go when there was enough progress. This morning you wrote on media that you're going because there's insufficient progress. What's changed there? RHODES: Well, you know, the fact is there's a little bit of both in the sense that what we want is to take all this opening and all this activity, and, you know, again, what we've seen over the last year, all this interest from businesses and state and local governments and the Cubans, and start to make it concrete; start to show outcomes and results. You're beginning to see that take hold, you know, again, the direct flights agreement that was reached. You have some businesses beginning to be able to operate in Cuba. But we've also been having discussions with the Cubans about all these issues. You know, what -- what more can we do so that that becomes the beginning of something and is not a trickle, but leads to a much more significant flow of activity? And so we are confident that at this point it is both the case that we have made progress in normalization. We've dealt with a number of the important issues that had to be addressed at the beginning of that process. But now we want to see more of that connectivity come on line in terms of, again, commercial activity; in terms of many of the issues that we've been discussing with the Cuban government. And frankly, given the choice between going in December when, frankly, it would just kind of be a vacation down to Cuba, or going now and trying to get some business done, we believe that the time is right to go and lean in and try to get as much done on this trip as we can, and try to create as much momentum as we can to carry that forward throughout the year. 13:18:08 DEVIN DWYER QUESTION: You don't think you've lost leverage? 13:18:10 RHODES: No, I don't think so. Because, you know, again, first of all, this has been an ongoing process of discussions with the Cubans. And look, the president's also going to Cuba and, you know, what he -- what he says and how that trip goes, as you all know from covering many trips, will depend on, you know, whether we are demonstrating progress. So, I think that the interest that both countries have in showing the progress on normalization and having this be a productive and successful visit I think continues to create the conditions where there's an incentive to get things done. QUESTION: Ben, will President Obama get a chance to address the Cuban people? RHODES: You know, we have not developed a schedule, Mark. But I certainly think that he would want to look for some opportunity where he'll be able to speak to the Cuban people. So, I don't want to suggest that we have a particular venue in mind, but, you know, again, I think he sees this as an opportunity where he's meeting the Cuban government, but he's also going to want to be engaging broadly with the Cuban people. QUESTION: So, you would -- you're looking for -- to arrange something like that? 13:19:18 RHODES: Something, yes. But again, it's still preliminary. We haven't really begun to flesh out the elements of a schedule yet. QUESTION: And would you expect a reciprocal invitation to be extended to President Castro? RHODES: Well, we'll take this one visit at a time. We were able to meet President Castro in New York. That was at UNGA, though. But our focus now is on this visit. QUESTION: What specific policies are you hoping that the Cubans will announce either during or after this visit? And do you expect that you guys will do an executive order to lift the travel ban? Do you expect that you can? QUESTION: And can I ask you one on turkey. The Turks are accusing the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds of the attack yesterday and calling on you guys to sever ties to the YPG. Wondering, what is your response to that? And two, have you seen any evidence that their claims are true? EARNEST: So we have not determined responsibility. We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms the attacks that took place in turkey. You know, we as a government have not settled upon assignment of responsibility, but we'll be engaging with the Turks on this. You know, we've made clear to the Turks that -- in all of our engagements with the YPG and other Kurdish elements, that we made very clear to them the importance of our alliance with Turkey and the importance of them not engaging in efforts that would undermine what should be our focus, which is the shared threat of ISIL. So this is something though we'll be talking directly to Turkey about. We'll of course want to make sure that their security concerns as an ally are taken very seriously. And we'll want to make sure that the different actors that we're working with in Syria are focusing their attention where it should be, which is on the counter ISIL effort. On your first Cuba questions. You know, we have been steadily making regulatory changes since December 17th. We -- at the end of January announced our last tranche. But I would expect that that process will continue. So as we have additional regulatory changes to make, we will announce them. I don't want to preview what they are because that's, you know, an ongoing process that involves our efforts to ensure that, you know, not only are we acting consistent with the laws that are on the books, even if we would lift the embargo if we could, but that we're also focused on the right issues and areas. Generally, what we've aimed to do is promote additional travel, commerce and economic activity in Cuba that, again, we believe benefits the Cuban people. In terms the steps the Cuban government can take. You know, again, I don't want to be overly prescriptive from here. I would say we have talked to our business community. There are a number of things that Cuba could do that could make it easier for businesses to operate in Cuba and to operate in ways that benefit the Cuban people, to have a presence and to be able to engage Cuban workers. So, again, there's actually a delegation here this week from Cuba, including minister of trade and we're discussing what are the practical steps to could be taken that again connect our regulatory changes with their economic reform efforts. There are also issues that we just regularly and consistently have raised. As I mentioned, internet access has been one of those. Our support for, again, their nascent private sector as a part of that economic reform agenda has been one. And then on human rights, I'm sure we'll have a number of specific issues that we'll be continuing to raise between now and the trip. We'll want to make clear that, you know, in any case we'll be focused on those issues because the American people care about them, the president cares about them. So, again, I think between now and the trip and on the trip itself, we'll want to have steps taken by both the United States and Cuba that show how this is moving forward. And then there will be areas of bilateral cooperation that we're pursuing with Cuba, where we'll be exploring what can get done around the trip. QUESTION: Can I ask you just one more. EARNEST: Yep. QUESTION: Did you guys talk to folks on The Hill, particularly your critics, of this policy in regards to this trip? EARNEST: We've been doing outreach to The Hill. I myself spoke to a number of members. I don't like to read those out. Some -- you know, I definitely spoke to people of different viewpoints, people who are critical of what we're doing and people who are very supportive. I will say that, you know, our judgment of what's taken place, as you see, increases in support for this policy on Capitol Hill. That this is moving in the direction it's moving in the direction of opening. And you see that with a number of people who are supporting lifting the travel ban in Congress. You see that in some initial efforts to lift the embargo. And you see it as something that crosses party lines. So you have Senator Leahy on the one hand, but also Senator Flake who is also very supportive of what we're doing. And so, part of what I think the opportunity is here is you have bipartisan support for this policy that has been growing and we want to push that forward. RHODES: Yep. QUESTION: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit -- I think critics have pointed to the spike in arrests of dissidents in Cuba as evidence that -- you know, maybe they have Wi-Fi hot spots now, but kind of -- there's actually been a regression on human rights issues. So I'm wondering -- do you guys see this as having been a net positive, or -- or has this issue kind of been -- overshadowed some of the gains that have been made, especially economically? And I wanted to ask really -- really quickly if there has been progress made on returning some American fugitives that -- that are now in Cuba. And then on Argentina, if the U.S. sees now that there is a new president -- or a new first family for the first time in a long time, whether they can be an ally, and what kind of reception you expect the president to get, especially considering the one that President Bush received (inaudible)? 13:25:57 RHODES: Yeah. So on human rights, first of all, we see everything that we're doing as being in the net positive for the -- the -- the lives and human rights of the Cuban people. I'd say a number of things. First of all, the -- the economic issues, ultimately, are connected to the human rights issues because it gets at are the Cuban people going to benefit from having a better well-being, are they going to be empowered by greater access to information and the outside world. But what we're also seeing is the expectations of the Cuban people have gone up for the future. And that's a good thing. We want the Cuban people to be hopeful for the future. We want them to see that there are possibilities for them to be continuing to pursue a better life. What we do see with their government is they have continued, in particular, practice of these short-term detentions that are, again, deeply concerning. The -- the number of kind of long-term political prisoners, along the lines of a number of the people who were released around December 17th -- those types of detentions have gone down over the years and -- and months. But what we see is this practice of short-term detentions, harassment of people seeking to express basic rights. And that's an issue that we'll be raising directly with the -- the Cuban government. And the fact of the matter is, the Cuban people see this as a hopeful time, as a moment of opportunity. And it's important that the Cuban government recognize that, you know, those aspirations of their people are going to -- ultimately are down to the benefit of Cuba, and is not something to be put down. So it will be -- it will be on the agenda. But our -- as we look at this, it's important to remember, we tried it one way for 50 years. We had an embargo. We had democracy funding. And you did not have a promotion of human rights on the island. We believe that this is a much better way to ultimately support the Cuban people and help them achieve a better life. I'll give you just one example. You know, the U.S. government had an embargo that limited the Cuban government -- the Cuban people's ability to access all kinds of goods, at the same time we were seeking to provide phones to some individual Cubans. Well, why not just try to allow all Cubans to have access to telecommunications? You know, that, in our judgment, is a better way of advancing the things that we care about. With respect to Argentina, we definitely anticipate that they'll be a closer partner on a range of issues. And in fact, President Macri's been a strong voice for democracy and human rights in Latin America. He signaled that he'd like to have closer economic and diplomatic cooperation with the United States. So we believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relations with Argentina. And it mirrors the sentiment we see across the region, particularly since our Cuba opening, where there's much more receptivity to working with the United States. So I'd imagine the reception will be very positive, and it speaks to the goodwill throughout the hemisphere for -- for President Obama. Yep. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE). You talked about the embargo and trying to get it lifted. The trade minister earlier this week described things that he thinks the White House can do without the lifting of the embargo. The -- allowing the dollar to be used in a third country, and permitting U.S. import of rum and cigars, of course -- that might be something... (CROSSTALK) RHODES: I know that doesn't interest anybody here, but... (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Have those things been considered? Is it too soon? When would be appropriate to consider those, especially if you continue to have the intransigence that you see in Congress, to lift the embargo? RHODES: Yeah. We've been considering those issues, and -- and essentially, what -- you know -- look, our judgment is that the embargo should be lifted. You know, short of that, we want to look at what are the areas where we can open up space that can promote the greatest travel and commercial activity that ultimately, again, benefits the Cuban people. RHODES: So we are looking at those issues, and as I said to Carol, you know, I'd expect that, just as we've kind of on a regular basis been rolling out these different regulatory changes, that we'll be able to continue to do that in the coming weeks. 13:30:18 We think that's in our owe interest. You know, we think that helps advance the interests of Americans who want to travel to Cuba to engage the Cuban people or American businesses that want to engage in Cuba, but also, frankly, in helping ordinary Cubans. So we'll be looking at that. Yeah? QUESTION: What will be the technical process of doing that? RHODES: So it's a very technical process, and essentially, what it involves is different agencies of the U.S. government, in particular as it relates to our sanctions policy, Treasury, where we very much would urge the confirmation of Adam Zubin because he oversees this office and it's very important work. Treasury reviewing our regulations and deciding what type of licenses to issue, what type of policy changes that can be made. And of course, everything that we do has to be reviewed by Office of Legal Counsel to ensure that it's consistent with existing law. Juliette? QUESTION: I have one specific question and one broader one. Specifically, the first lady doesn't go on that many foreign trips. Could you talk about what her participation means and whether the Obamas' daughters are going, because it does say the first family will meet with President (inaudible). And more broadly, could you talk more broadly with how the administration's work with Burma on similar issues regarding democratization has helped inform what's happening with Cuba, where you see parallels in order to get... 13:31:43 RHODES: So the first lady will be coming. I don't -- you know, I don't think we, you know, have an answer with respect to the children at this point, but the first lady will definitely be accompanying the president. You know, I think -- you know, she's taken a greater interest in issues related to girls' education internationally as we've moved into the second term. And again, that's beyond the United States. So that's been the substantive focus that she's had. But I also think that, you know, she looks for the appropriate opportunities that have, in part, to do with their schedules aligning and also in part having to do with focusing on regions where I think she can help us advance our efforts. And if you look at this type of trip, you know, what the first lady is, frankly singularly good at is she's an enormously popular figure in different countries around the world, generates a lot of good will and is a very able messenger for America and its values. And so going to a place like Cuba for the first time in this presidency and the first time in many years and having this kind of historic opening to the Cuban people, I think it's very important that she's there and that her voice is a part of the conversation. And that, you know, this region more generally of the Americas is one that she's interested in engaging. So we very much welcome her participation. With respect to Burma, I do think there -- you know, there are some parallels and obviously a lot of differences. The core parallel is that we believe that the policy of not engaging Burma and Cuba was not working in either case. You know, when we came into office, in Burma you'd had a military junta ruled with an iron fist for many years, you had Aung San Suu Kyi and many other people in prison, you had an economy that was closed off from the rest of the world. And we felt that simply using isolation and sanctions wasn't working to resolve that situation, and so the president engaged and we engaged broadly in Burma. So we engaged the government, but we also engaged civil society. We also engaged entrepreneurs. We also sought to promote economic ties to show the benefit that could come from more engagement with the international community. And we've seen that have an enormous effect in just a small number of years in Burma in opening up space there and restoring their connections to the international community, and ultimately in very successful election that took place late last year. And I'd note, you know, the president traveled to Burma twice, you know, even when those questions were still very much in play. You know, our judgment is you don't wait until the story's over to show up and find out what happened. That just puts us on the sidelines. And that by going to a place like Burma he was able to advance the things that we care about. He was able to raise the hopes of the people there and he was able to restore a relationship with a country that had been deeply estranged from the United States. RHODES: You know, Cuba's very different in that -- in terms of size, in terms of the issues in play, in terms of politics, but I think the common thread is that we believe we can accomplish more through engagement. We believe that engagement should be with the government but also with the people of the country. We believe greater connectivity to the United States and the international community, diplomatically, economically, you know, ultimately is going to be to the benefit of the Cuban people. QUESTION: Just a follow up, would you say that however to do this in Cuba because you don't have this kind of mobilized opposition you the way you had in Burma? Is that one of the things that potentially makes Democratization more challenging? 13:35:40 RHODES: Well, you had Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. So there was an opposition figure with enormous renown whereas in terms of the politics in Cuba, you have a one-party system and then elements of opposition. It's not analogous to the long standing prominence of the NLD Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma including their running and winning an election in the late '80s. So the political circumstances are certainly different. Julie? RHODES: Thanks. As you've outlined, the United States government has done a lot to sort of relax our restrictions and facilitate some more travel and commerce with Cuba. They haven't done nearly as much on their end. If I'm not mistaken, imports were down from the U.S. last year substantially and as you mentioned they haven't done anywhere near what we'd like to see them do on human rights. So can you just sort of address this criticism that you're getting from some of the opponents of the policy, that this trip really rewards a regime that in many ways is still -- you know, very much against American values and has not done what we wanted -- or what the president wanted to see happen like when he first announced this a few years? RHODES: First of all, we do still have enormous restrictions in place. We have an embargo in place. The Cubans themselves I think, you know certainly -- you know, continue to point at all of those restrictions as a constraint. The fact of the matter is we do believe that they could do some things -- practical things that could make it easier for businesses to operate in Cuba, to establish a presence in Cuba, to engage Cuban workers directly, to interact with their private sector. So there's a range of issues that we've been discussing with them. And we've been able to find, you know, in some cases direct solutions. You know, Airbnb can get in because they're directly engaging the Cuban people in that private sector. Cleaver was able to fund a means of establish a factory that will benefit small farmers through the production of tractors but we wanted to do much more than that. We wanted to see the Cubans take steps that allow for an opening for U.S. businesses because ultimately we believe if our businesses are operating there and there's travel there that that's going to be the benefit of the people. So, again, a degree of progress -- some steps by the Cuban government on whether it's Iterate access or specific arrangement with U.S. companies, but not enough. And that leads to the core point which is, we believe the best way to try to push this forward is for the president to go. That essentially there's been a whole range of activity, part of what businesses have been able to do is -- and we've been able to do is kind of look under the hood of the Cuban regulations and the Cuban legal framework over the course of the last year. This is not a country that was in many ways designed or prepared to immediately engage the U.S. private sector but I think we now have that understanding. So I think there is an opening for us to try to push a much greater degree of activity through. Again, the basic point we would make to critics is the way to carry this policy forward is to keep leaning forward, and to keep engaging more, and to keep pressing for greater activity, and to keep pressing for the Cubans take steps in line with our steps that open up this space for the countries. And pulling back it would only make it harder to achieve those things but a presidential visit is a forcing mechanism and I think it has potential benefit of, you know, making our government and the Cuban government do as much as we can to make normalization move forward. QUESTION: Do you think it's fair to them you want to see more changes on their end in exchange for this trip as in a run-up to offering a visit between the two presidents? 13:40:00 RHODES: Again, it's not -- you know, it's not a quid pro quo, but I think we would like the trip to show the concrete progress in normalization. And so it's an opportunity to demonstrate results. And frankly, insofar as the Cuban government wants to meet the expectations of their own people, which have been raised by this opening to the United States, and help improve the livelihoods of the Cuban people, that that engagement will serve those objectives. So -- you know, we feel very strongly that engagement is a far preferable way of pursuing the things that America cares about than isolation. EARNEST: Good. (OFF-MIKE) take two in the back, and then we'll let... RHODES: Yeah. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) EARNEST: Olivier, you want to go next? QUESTION: Sure, I got a couple for you, Ben. One, building on Carol's question -- I think you alluded to this too -- any sign that Cuba's going to let American businesses directly hire from the Cuban labor pool? RHODES: So that's an issue that -- that's an example of an issue that we have continually raised with them. And we would like there to be, you know, increasing opportunities for American businesses to hire Cubans, and foreign businesses to hire Cubans. And again, sometimes that's very easy. If it's, you know, Airbnb contracting with a Cuban home, that's one thing. But if it's a U.S. company hiring workers, those are the types of issues that we're discussing with them. QUESTION: Any progress towards now nominating an ambassador in Cuba? RHODES: You know, that's something that -- you know, we're still working through. Again, as -- as some of you have heard me say, one of the reasons why we've been comfortable where we are is because we have an excellent chief of mission down there in Jeff DeLaurentis, who's -- you know, of ambassador rank, worked closely with Susan Rice when she was at the U.N., very well thought of in Cuba and in the United States. So we're comfortable with Jeff, but we're -- we're going to certainly be addressing the question of ambassador in the coming months. QUESTION: And finally, when U.S.-Vietnam relations were normalized, not quite 20 years ago, we heard a lot about how the previous approach had failed and how this was going to lead to greater openness. You read the State Department report on human rights now for Vietnam, and it's just ghastly. It's -- it's egregious political abuses. What do you say to critics who say that by broadening the American engagement with Cuba, you are, in effect, putting American businesses in the service of an authoritarian regime that's going to use them for patronage for jobs and is going to prop itself up that way? 13:42:33 RHODES: So, a few things. One, Vietnam is not 90 miles from Florida. Two, I think that, you know, what American businesses can bring is greater opportunity for Cubans, greater connectivity to the United States and to the Cuban-American community. Yes, I mean, if the Cuban economy improves, there'll be more resources for the government. But there'll be far more resources for the Cuban people. And if you look at the direction of the Cuban economy, a lot of the activity and a lot of the growth is in the cuenta-propista sector and is in sectors that are engaging the rest of the world. So we believe that American business is a net positive for the Cuban people, and that, over time, it is going to bring about real benefits and improvements in their lives. And then there's certain sectors, obviously, where -- where we can make -- you know, a critical difference, if you look at something like -- you know, telecommunications. The last thing I'd say is part of what's different is -- you know, we have a Cuban-American community that is deeply invested in the future of Cuba, that cares deeply about the well-being and the rights of the Cuban people. And I think what -- you know, we've heard from many of them is, they see that Cuba is changing. There is an evolution taking place in Cuba. And we can either be a part of that or not. And if we keep ourselves out of it, and the Europeans and others are there helping to shape this change that's taking place, that doesn't make a lot of sense. And that's why I think you have people like Carlos Gutierrez and other Cuban-Americans -- you know, who've come to this recognition that this is the moment for us to engage. You know, because, again, this is a government that was very comfortable, for over five decades, with the embargo in place and with the United States as essentially the source of legitimacy that they drew upon because of what we were trying to do to Cuba. We have seen Raul Castro begin to initiate a set of reforms in Cuba. They obviously aren't at the pace and scale that the United States would suggest with their economy. And it obviously doesn't get at the core political issues. But there's an evolution taking place. And we want to be a part of that evolution. We don't want to remove ourselves from it. EARNEST: Yes, ma'am, I'll give you the last one, in the back. QUESTION: Thank you so much. QUESTION: So, you know, the embargo is a big obstacle. Cuban -- the Cubans want it lifted because it's a big hurdle to normalizing relations. Can you talk about how it's playing on the campaign trail? Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz already said that these are, you know, unjustifiable concessions. So can you talk about whether or not the president is concerned, as others have said here today, that should a Republican win the White House, all of this is going to be reverted? And then for Argentina, can you talk -- can you elaborate more on the timing of the trip? It's been two decades, as you said before. What specific message is the president bringing to President Macri? 13:45:40 RHODES: Well, I think the timing is we wanted to go early in this administration given that the president, President Macri, had, you know, expressed his interests in renewing our relationship. So we want to sit down with him early in his term to chart the way forward. But also demonstrate that, you know, a cornerstone of the president's legacy is his approach to Latin America, and that involves the Cuba opening, that involves the Colombia peace process, but it also involves making sure that we're leaving strong relations with important countries like Argentina. So -- and I think it's, you know, fitting to go on the back end of the Cuba trip for that reason as well. With respect to the -- your first question, you know, first of all, again, the long-standing approach that those senators have supported has failed to produce any results. The Cuban government is still in place. It's not as if, you know, one more year of the embargo is going to bring transformational change. This is a policy that we pursued for decades. We have an evidentiary basis to make an assessment that it's not working. But even beyond that ,it wasn't helping the Cuban people. The Cuban people were suffering because of the embargo and because of these restrictive policies, and the fact of the matter is the thing that we should all agree on, and I think we do all agree on, is we want a better life for the Cuban people. The Cuban people support these changes. Every indication is that they overwhelmingly support engagement with the United States. So why would we, in service of our objective of helping the Cuban people, ignore their voices and tell them that they're going to have to continue to live under the embargo, and tell them that they're going to have to live cut off from the rest of the world. Let's listen to the Cuban people. They are invested in this. They see this as potentially leading to a better future. And, you know, moreover, I don't think that it's the right way to think about the changes we've made as not in our own interests. It's not a concession to have an embassy. That makes no sense. An embassy allows us to better represent our interests, to better engage civil society, to better facilitate American commerce, to better speak up for the things we care about. It's not a concession to allow Americans to travel to Cuba. Americans would very much like to travel to Cuba. So explaining to them that it's some concession to allow them to do something they want doesn't make a lot of sense either. And it's not a concession to allow American businesses to pursue opportunities that they are seeking in Cuba. That's in our own interest. That's the opposite of what a concession is. So I think, again, to just conclude on, you know, your question, the reason we think that this will be irreversible is because the logic of it is so clear. What we were doing was not working. This has a better chance of having a successful outcome for our interests. If people are traveling there, they're not going to want to be told they can't travel there anymore. If businesses are starting to operate there, they're not going to want to be told to shut down. If we have an embassy there, it doesn't make much sense to shut it down. If we have new opportunities in the Americas because we've gotten rid of this anchor on our standing in the region, it doesn't make much sense to immediately anger and alienate the Western Hemisphere by reversing this policy. And that's why we believe you see bipartisan members of Congress but also a diverse group of stakeholders from the Chamber of Commerce to many, many, many people in the Cuban-American community to the faith communities like the Catholic Church all supporting this change in policy. QUESTION: Is the president confident that either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton will continue his legacy in this foreign policy arena? RHODES: Without commenting on certain candidates, I mean, you know, I think the positions that they've taken clearly indicate support for our policy. And, you know, certainly we believe that, you know, they understand that the old approach didn't work and that this is a better way of pursuing things. 13:49:55 EARNEST: Thank you, Ben. I think as you can tell, there's obviously a lot of passion here in the -- in the White House and the administration for this change in policy. And so, I mean, we're certainly looking forward to the trip next month, and hopefully, many of you will be able to join us for that trip. EARNEST: So we've already been out here for an hour or so. I'm happy to take a few more questions that you have. Kevin, you can go first. QUESTION: One of your favorite topics. EARNEST: OK, I have a lot of favorite topics. QUESTION: So I'll ask about Donald trump, Pope Francis says anyone who wants to build a border wall is no Christian. What's the White House make of the Pope's comments and could his comments be extended to millions of Americans as well? 13:50:37 EARNEST: The pope has a spokesperson and so, you can certainly speak to that individual to -- for a greater understanding of what the pope was saying. I think I can just say as a general matter is that President Obama had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to address the national prayer breakfast where he talked about his own personal faith -- his own personal Christian faith and informed his view of the values and priorities that he has chosen to champion in the White House. And we've noted, I think on a number of occasions we've had the opportunity to note, that many of those values and priorities are not shared by Mr. Trump. So I will however though, extend to Mr. Trump the courtesy that he has not extended to the president and not use this opportunity to call into question the kind of private personal conversations that he's having with his god. All right. QUESTION: So he talked about wanting to see concrete progress from Cuba leading up to this trip. When I asked if there were any conditions or specific things that you wanted to see met before then; he was a little bit vague about it saying that, "there was a range of issues that would continue to be discussed." So can you clarify, are there -- when he says, "concrete steps," do you want to see certain things before the president sets foot there? 13:52:02 EARNEST: I think what Ben was referring to is the fact that over the course of the last 14 or 15 months since the president announced his policy change, we've seen a number of concrete steps taken by the Cuban government to begin to normalize relations between our two countries. As Ben said at the closing, "the president announced this change in policy because he believed that that change would be good for the Cuban people, but most importantly, it would be good for the U.S. and the American people and the American economy." And that has manifested itself in a variety of ways, whether it is the opening of an embassy, the re-establishing of commercial flights, or even greater opportunities for American businesses inside of Cuba. You can certainly anticipate that in the lead-up to this trip, during the trip, and certainly after, that we're going to continue to seek additional concrete steps that we believe advance the interests of the United States. QUESTION: So there are some specific things that you want to see before he lands? 13:53:03 EARNEST: Well, we would like to see continued progress in the direction of more normal relations between our two countries. We believe that kind of progress would serve the interests not just of the Cuban people, but of the citizens of the United States. QUESTION: Why doesn't he want to meet with Fidel Castro? EARNEST: Well, the president -- President Obama is planning -- I think it's been noted -- to meet with President Raul Castro. He's the leader of the country. The president will have essentially a two-day visit to Cuba and we're going to have some limited time. So it's been noted that the details are still being worked out but at this point I would not anticipate a meeting with the former president. QUESTION: Why doesn't the president want to attend Scalia's funeral? 13:53:52 EARNEST: Well, Michelle, as we discussed yesterday, the president and first lady tomorrow will be traveling to the Supreme Court building to pay their respects to Justice Scalia whose body will be lying in repose at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has organized this opportunity for the American public to travel to the Supreme Court on Friday and pay tribute to Justice Scalia. That's exactly what the president and first lady will be doing tomorrow. Like thousands of Americans, not all of whom agree with Justice Scalia's view of the law, they do agree that his service to the country and his service to an institution that is critical to our democracy warrants special attention. And the president will pay his respects to Justice Scalia and his service to the country by traveling to the supreme court tomorrow. QUESTION: Why wouldn't he just go to the funeral? 13:54:50 EARNEST: Well, as I also noted yesterday, Vice President Biden who had his own personal relationship with Justice Scalia and his family will be representing the administration at the funeral. Obviously, when the Vice President travels to some place his security footprint is at least a little bit lighter. But given his personal relationship with the family and given the president's desire to find a respectful way to pay tribute to Justice Scalia's service to the country, we believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement. I think all of this should be viewed in the context of the comments that the president offered in person on Saturday evening just a few hours after receiving the news of Justice Scalia's death. The president addressed the news media and spent the bulk of his remarks paying tribute to Justice Scalia and his life. When asked about Justice Scalia at a news conference on Tuesday, the president once again took the opportunity to speak at length about his respect for Justice Scalia's intellect and commitment to the rule of law and his service to the country. And so I think all of that taken together reflects the kind of approach that I think that most Americans are looking for from their leaders in Washington, D.C. There's so much rancor and politics and partisanship that we allow ourselves to get drawn into differing -- different corners to the extent that some people actually want to use the funeral of the Supreme Court justice as some sort of political cudgel. The president doesn't think that that's appropriate, and in fact, what the president thinks is appropriate is respectfully paying tribute to high-profile patriotic American citizens even when you don't agree on all the issues. And that's what he's going to do. All right, Tara. QUESTION: You talked earlier in the briefing about the progress with human rights. And I'm wondering about the -- there was a time when the State Department had submitted names of political prisoners, and about 50 of them were released and then some were re-arrested. So I'm wondering how Ben Rhodes and the other officials are trying to make sure that people don't get re-arrested and what some of the unintended consequences might be of the president's visit. EARNEST: I would refer you to the State Department for an updated assessment about the condition of those conversations because the truth is these are the kinds of conversations that are going on between U.S. diplomats and Cuban diplomats on a -- essentially a daily basis at this point. A regular part of our engagement with the Cuban people -- or with the Cuban government has been focused on ensuring that the Cuban people are empowered and have their human rights protected. And we believe that there is a lot more that the Cuban government needs to do to do that. And that is a consistent part of our engagement with them. I don't -- I don't have an update on that at this point, but there's no misunderstanding about that. And that is precisely why the president has sought to deepen the engagement between our two countries so that we can be more effective in advocating for the human rights of the Cuban people. OK, Julie. QUESTION: Thanks. Can you give us any sense of timing or a process for when the president is planning to kind of begin rolling out his choice for Scalia's successor, who he wants to nominate? Are the meetings beginning already? Have you started talking to people personally? How do you expect that to play out (inaudible) 13:58:33 EARNEST: Well, let me answer that in a -- in a couple different ways. I would expect that as the president contemplates this very important decision, that he will consult with a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of viewpoints. Some of those conversations will eventually become public. I think many of them probably won't be. But the president and his team certainly take this particular issue -- I guess the president and his team take this particular Constitutional responsibility quite seriously, and the president has already begun to have conversations with senior members of his team about this process. We're at the beginning of this process, but it is one that the president and his team intend to carry out expeditiously. EARNEST: We're mindful of the fact that the president has almost another year in office, so there certainly is ample time for the United States Senate to act. But what's also true is that at least in recent history, we've not had a Supreme Court vacancy that has spanned two Supreme Court terms. So the president certainly wants to move promptly so that the United States Senate can do the same in giving his nominee a fair hearing and a timely yes or no vote. OK (inaudible). QUESTION: Thanks Josh. The vice president, today, gave an interview to Minnesota Public Radio, and -- and talked a little bit about sort of how the president is looking at his picks, and suggested that he may be going for a consensus candidate. Said the president won't pick -- these are his words -- "won't pick the most liberal jurist in the nation." He also made a point of noting that there are many judges who have had unanimous support from Republicans. Should we read into that? I mean, is that -- is -- is it -- is the president sort of moving towards a consensus pick as opposed to -- you know, one end of the spectrum or the other? EARNEST: Well, obviously, Vice President Biden has a unique perspective on this situation. He is somebody who, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the confirmation hearings of, I believe, four different Supreme Court justices. So he obviously has his own unique insight into the kind of criteria that a president can and should use when choosing a Supreme Court justice. President Obama has drawn on that expertise and that experience from Vice President Biden in announcing his nomination of both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. And I'm confident that President Obama will be interested in drawing on Vice President Biden's perspective in making this decision as well. What President Obama is focused on is choosing the best person in the United States of America to fill this job. QUESTION: Any chance (OFF-MIKE)? EARNEST: Well, again, I'm not going to get ahead of the process. I don't -- I don't know if the V.P. has signaled his interest in being considered for this job. But of course he did point out a relevant fact, which is that there are a number of senior-level judges, judges who serve on the appellate courts, who have actually gotten strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate. There is a track record that the president has of appointing people whose -- whose qualifications are beyond question. And I would expect that the president will nominate someone else -- or someone -- to the Supreme Court who has credentials that could be similarly described. OK? Kevin. QUESTION: Just one question about Gitmo. Can you give me an update on whether or not the administration plans to submit to Congress details about closing Gitmo? I believe the NDAA deadline is the 23rd. 14:02:27 EARNEST: I don't have an update for the timing of that plan. We're certainly mindful of -- of that deadline that's established in the NDAA. But as soon as we have a plan to present to Congress, we'll present it to them, and I'll make all of you get a copy of it as well. QUESTION: Would it be your suspicion that that will in fact happen? Are you -- are you predicting that it won't likely happen? EARNEST: Well, I was -- back in the summer, I was asked to predict the timing of when this report would be presented to Congress. And I was off by several months. So I have learned my lesson, and I will be -- be not -- not be making future predictions about the timing of when this report will be presented. I know that, in that intervening time -- that the Department of Defense has been working very diligently with other components of the president's national security team to put together a thoughtful, workable, sensible plan that reflects the national security interests of the United States and reflects the responsibility that the United States government has to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. So I -- I don't have an update on the timing for the plan. I know that they've made a lot of progress on this over the last few months. But when it is presented to Congress, we'll ensure that it's made public as well, so all of you will have a chance to take a look at it. OK? QUESTION: Can I follow on that real fast? EARNEST: Sure, Carol, go ahead. QUESTION: If you don't put forward the whole plan by that deadline, then will you put forward something narrower to address the provision in the NDAA? 14:03:47 EARNEST: I don't want to speculate at this point that we won't meet the deadline. But if February 23rd comes around and we haven't presented the plan, then we can talk about -- you know, what we'll try to communicate to Congress. OK? Justin. QUESTION: Speaking of an NDAA deadline that you already blew through, I wanted to ask you why -- why the administration didn't turn over a plan, as the NDAA required on Monday, for the fight against ISIS? EARNEST: Yeah. Well, I would anticipate that this is something that -- that the Department of Defense and the Department of State will be able to present to Congress shortly. Congress is on recess this week, so I know that they're working diligently to -- to complete this plan. I think the other thing that's true here, Justin, is that -- you know, the -- given the number of senior-level administration officials that have testified in public, under oath -- some of them who even testified in classified setting -- about our ongoing efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, I don't anticipate that there are a whole lot of people in Congress that are going to learn a whole lot new in that plan. QUESTION: And then I wanted to ask about (inaudible) OTM. There's a lot of layers to this, so I'm going to try to power through and... (CROSSTALK) EARNEST: OK. I'll try to do the same with an answer . QUESTION: The IG report said that, "she wasn't able to serve as acting director after she was nominated because she didn't work as a first assistant at OPM." You guys issued a statement saying, "there was long precedent saying she should be able to switch over jobs," but there was a federal court case recently that did not agree with you and said that "she wasn't a first assistant at that agency, that as soon as you nominated her for the full job she was no longer eligible to serve as acting director." I know that you are appealing that case, but because it is the current sort of ruling that you're working with, are you not concerned that sort of her actions could be as acting director would be deemed illegal in the period until she's... 14:05:50 EARNEST: I'm aware of this situation. I have not gotten the full legal analysis about why our lawyers believe it is entirely appropriate for her to continue to do the important work that she's doing at OPM. So we can try to provide you a greater understanding of our interpretation of the law, but we certainly say with a lot of confidence, not just that she has the -- cleared the legal bar to perform that work, but that she's doing an excellent job. She inherited a very difficult situation and she has gone to work rolling up her sleeves, drawing on her private sector leadership expertise to implement significant reforms at OPM. We are -- I think Democrats and Republicans alike have been impressed at the pace with which she has been able to make important progress on some really difficult issues. There's an enormous amount of work that needs to get done, and we're hopeful that essentially Congress can put this to rest and confirm her to the OPM job full time, so she can continue to do the critically important work she's doing without any distraction. OK, Isaac? QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago you were saying that, "if the Republicans didn't pass things on the President's agenda, that that was something you thought voters should have in their minds when they go to the polls in November." Do you think that's true about the -- what they do with the supreme court nomination as well, that -- if the Republicans don't have hearings or don't vote for your nominee, that's something voters should base their decision on? 14:07:37 EARNEST: Going back to the argument I made a couple weeks ago, the point that I was trying to make is that there is a lot of discussion about how there were Republicans who were harshly critical of some of the legitimately bipartisan proposals that we put forward. And my observation, was that that left Republicans in a situation where it was not clear at all exactly what they were going to do over the course of this year. Knowing that we've got Republicans in charge of the Congress and a Democrat in charge of the White House, you're going to have to act in bipartisan fashion to get anything done. If Republicans shoot down every bipartisan proposal that the President puts forward, then it puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position of having spent years urging the American people to give him the responsibility of running the United States Congress and essentially spending a year doing nothing. What I think is also true and I think this is true in the minds of the American people as well, Supreme Court nominations are a little bit different. People recognize that a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land entails a special responsibility and the other legislative agenda items that we have put forward are critically important to the country. There is no denying that reforming our criminal justice system would make a difference in the lives of thousands of Americans and could potentially do something really important to reduce the crime rate and improve our economy. The Transpacific Partnership, over the longer term, is the kind of thing that would even further strengthen the strongest and most durable economy in the world, and revolutionize the relationship that the United States has with some of the fastest growing economies in Asia. So that is important work that Congress needs to do in terms of ratifying the Transpacific Partnership. EARNEST: When it comes to the supreme court, the Senate has a constitutional responsibility and there has been an attempt, I know, as I observed yesterday, by people on all sides to try to politicize these hearings and to politicize the process. And what we're trying to do is to focus squarely on the president's Constitutional responsibility and the Senate's constitutional responsibility. And if that's what we do, I'm confident that a legislative process that is so often broken down -- been broken down by -- in dysfunction, will actually perform in a way that the American people expect. It doesn't mean we're going to have differences of opinion, I'm confident we're going to have differences of opinion. Are we going to have a spirited hearing or, you know, days of hearings? Yeah, I bet -- I'll bet that we do. Will there be some people who complain and say that they don't support the president's nominee? I'm confident that's probably going to happen too. But the real question that the American people have, the suggestion is not that we shouldn't have a debate, the question is whether or not the United States Senate is going to fulfill their basic Constitutional responsibility, and I think the American people, including those who are going to cast a vote in 2016, will be watching. QUESTION: Thank you, Josh. QUESTION: Do you think that if a senator says that there shouldn't be hearings or is opposed to the process so there aren't hearings, is that something that should be in the minds of the voters in that senator's state in November if that senator is up for re- election? EARNEST: Well, look. At this point, I'm not going to be able to predict with a lot of specificity exactly what a specific voter is going to have in mind when they go to the voting booth nine or 10 months from now. QUESTION: Would you want this to be something in their minds? EARNEST: Well, I think it's -- I think it's certainly something that's legitimate. And I think that this issue is -- again, given the stakes, is something that will get a lot of attention. And that's a good thing. This is something that should be subjected to a vigorous public debate. But look, at the end of the day, the president has a Constitutional duty, and so does the United States Senate. OK, Mark. QUESTION: Thanks Josh. QUESTION: Josh, I'm curious why President Obama was so thrilled, almost euphoric, to have received a parking pass for the United Center today. Do we expect the president to be driving himself around Chicago looking for a parking space after he leaves office? (LAUGHTER) EARNEST: That's a good question. I guess I wouldn't rule it out. We've talked a lot about how the president is -- certainly misses the opportunity that he gets to drive himself around. So he spent a little time driving around the South Lawn with Jerry Seinfeld at the end of last year and he certainly enjoyed that. 14:12:48 But I can tell you that in his post-presidency life, I think the president is eagerly anticipating spending some winter nights at the United Center watching both the Bulls and the Blackhawks. QUESTION: But he's not going to drive himself there. EARNEST: I wouldn't rule it out at this point. We'll see. Maybe he'll have a self-driving car, and so he'll be able to ride along without actually putting his hands on the wheel. QUESTION: Last question. Who did he have dinner with last night? EARNEST: The president did make an outing last night. The pool accompanied the president to BLT Restaurant just across the street here. I'm sure it was just serendipitous that a handful of New York Times reporters would be at the bar of the restaurant at 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I'm sure that hardly ever happens. Last night it did, and they saw the president walk in. The president did have dinner with some friends, many of them are people who are assisting the outside work of the foundation as it gets up and running. So there were friends -- you know, some of you tweeted about them. But there were former senior administration -- former White House officials and some others who were there. They had been meeting over the course of the day to sort of talk about some of the planning for the foundation. And when the president heard they were in town, he wanted to go over and see them. I spoke to the president about it a little bit this morning anticipating you might ask me about this and he told me that it was -- that it was almost entirely social. QUESTION: Was Morgan Freeman at the table? EARNEST: I wasn't there. I saw that other people saw him, so I think that's accurate. But I haven't seen a full list of who joined the president for dinner. All right, Toshi. QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Josh. I'd like to ask about North Korea and (inaudible) with Cuba. Clearly Cuba is a good example that the U.S. has deep and direct engagement and Iraq is also a good example. But when it comes to North Korea, the administration hasn't shown that kind of attitude despite the fact that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and is even trying to get hydrogen bomb. QUESTION: Is the administration ready to take on North Korea with that kind of deep and direct engagement? 14:15:12 EARNEST: Toshi, we're not, and the reason simply is that the North Koreans have continues to engage in repeated provocations that grossly violate their obligations. As you pointed out, they conducted a nuclear test this year that violated a range of U.N. Security Council resolutions. They conducted a launch that tested some missile technology earlier this month and those actions were roundly condemned by the international community. If North Korea is prepared to put an end to those kinds of provocative acts, come into compliance with international obligations, and make clear that they are committed to the goal of de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula; that would give North Korea the opportunity to begin to reengage with the international community. If that's something that they desire, they know precisely the path that they can take. It would give them an opportunity not just to improve their relationship with the United States but it would give them an opportunity to re-engage in the world and in the international community. It certainly would improve their economy. It would improve their relationship with South Korea. It would improve their relationship with other countries in the region like Russia and China, and even Japan and that's been our approach. Fortunately for the United States, the international community agrees with us that those are the steps that North Korea needs to take and they will continue to work with us to apply pressure to North Korea, to further isolate them, and to compel them to take the kinds of steps that will allow them to come into compliance with the international community's expectations. Andre? QUESTION: Thank you. Two things, one on Syria and two on Cuba. With Syria, we are supposed to be a part of a group of Geneva among the U.S. and Russia, who will discuss a multi-lateral format a way forward in Syria with a cease-fire. The question very simply is, why is it okay to do that in a multi-lateral format but not bilateral as the Russians keep saying? We need to do more. 14:17:45 EARNEST: Andre, we've acknowledged for a number of months now that the -- that there is an opportunity for the Russians, if they're prepared to sign on to the goals of the International Counter-ISIL Coalition, of whom there are 65 or 66 members. Their contribution to that effort would be welcomed. That is something that the Russians have resisted because of that resistance, and they have chosen to take a number of unilateral steps. We have engaged with the Russian military to the extent necessary to de-conflict our activities. But frankly, we've been disappointed both that Russia's military activities have not been effectively integrated with the International Counter-ISIL coalition, and that Russia's military activities have not been focused on ISIL but rather concentrated on propping up the Assad regime. That has resulted in more widespread bloodshed and suffering, and only serves to undermine the stated political goals of the Russian government. So that is a contradiction that the Russian government has been unable to address, and it's why that even as Russia gets deeper and deeper into the sectarian conflict, they're not actually advancing their longer term interests in the region. In the short term, they may able to help the Assad regime strengthen its hold on power but over the long term, Russia is being forced to dedicate more and more resources to trying to hold on to the only military installation that they have outside of the former soviet union. QUESTION: Given that approach, what do you really expect from the Geneva regime? 14:19:47 EARNEST: What we expect is the painstakingly slow, and difficult, and complicated diplomacy will take the next step there. And Secretary Kerry has been tenacious in trying to move this process forward. But, look, even as this process moves forward slowly, lives are being lost, and lives are being scarred, because you see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. You see more and more people forced to flee their homes to avoid violence. And, unfortunately, Russia's actions are only perpetuating that situation, and not actually coordinating with the international community to rectify it. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) will the ceasefire begin (OFF-MIKE)? EARNEST: Well, this will be the -- this will be the -- the -- part of the multi-lateral discussions that are planned for tomorrow. QUESTION: OK. And -- and on Cuba, I wanted to ask about something that Ben mentioned, that you are interested in -- Cuban cancer vaccines. And the question basically is, does it make Cuba a partner -- a potential partner in your mutual cancer initiative, and other -- are any other partners like that? EARNEST: Yeah. That's a good question. We know that -- that there are -- that the Cuban government has invested a lot in military -- in medical technology, and if our improved engagement with the Cubans would allow medical experts in the United States to deepen their engagement with medical researchers and physicians in Cuba, then that would be a really good thing. It'd be a good thing for the Cuban people. It certainly would be a good thing -- good thing for the United States, and it would be good -- a good thing for the world, in terms of trying to capitalize on what is -- what could be important gains that Cuba has made, and we can certainly leverage those gains to advance the interests of the scientific community in trying to cure diseases like cancer. QUESTION: And last thing. This moon-shot cancer thing -- how confident is the White House that you will achieve something -- that you will achieve a breakthrough or some results, meaningful results, by the end of the year? You have a very small window there. EARNEST: We do have a small window here. And what we are seeking to do is to lay the groundwork so that we can turbo-charge the process -- the progress that's been made thus far and try to shorten the distance between the progress that we're making now and the -- the ultimate goal of -- of curing cancer. And I don't anticipate that's going to happen before the end of the year, but I do anticipate that, by better focusing our attention on this goal, that we can more effectively use our resources, that we can more effectively share knowledge between the government and the variety of private-sector entities that are pursuing these efforts, and that we can lay the groundwork for the kind of breakthrough that would have a tangible impact on millions of lives. QUESTION: I've heard people speculate that you called this initiative "moon shot" because the groundwork has already been laid, like with the original moon shot -- that you are already on the brink of a major discovery -- maybe has made a major discovery -- and just wait for -- for it to be announced. EARNEST: Yeah. The -- the reason we have used that terminology is, essentially, two things. One is it reflects the scale of the ambition that the president has for confronting this. And there's no denying that, when -- when President Kennedy made this announcement -- that it was widely viewed as a very ambitious, bold, audacious move, but yet one that was achieved. We envision something similarly ambitious. The second thing is -- and this is also relevant, too -- when President Kennedy made this announcement, the goal was not realized during his presidency. It wasn't until 1969 that this goal was eventually realized. And so what we're hoping to do is to lay the groundwork in the presidency of Barack Obama so that some future president will be able to make a proud public announcement about a medical breakthrough that would lead to a cure for cancer. (CROSSTALK) EARNEST: Ron, I'll give you the last one. QUESTION: Just to clarify one thing... EARNEST: Yep. QUESTION: ... this -- this (inaudible) crunch funding -- anti-terrorism funding to New York City -- the commission there is very upset about some comments that you made that seemed to suggest that Senator Schumer's position on the Iran deal may have something to do with why this cut is happening, and that the White House is playing politics at a time when the issue should be the unique threat that New York City faces. Can you just clarify what you said about Schumer in relation to this cut, and whether there's any relationship at all? 14:24:39 EARNEST: There's no relationship at all. I -- we can walk you through the numbers that indicate that this administration has made a substantial investment in homeland security, not just for New York City that obviously has some unique challenges, but for the whole country. EARNEST: And when you take a look at the resources that have been provided to the city and state of New York over the last several years, the amount that has been unspent -- or that remains in their accounts and unspent and the new commitment that we have made in the context of this recent budget, I think our commitment to homeland security is quite clear. And so the concerns that are raised yesterday were entirely focused on our concern that if you take a look at the facts, the facts back up precisely the priority that this president has placed on homeland security and making sure that state and local officials across the country have the resources that they need to protect their communities. QUESTION: So the cuts -- is the cuts related to more unspent funds? is that what you're saying? EARNEST: No. What I'm saying is there -- we can -- we can walk you through the numbers because it's complicated, but there's $600 million in funds that have been provided by the federal government, most of them through DHS, that have been provided in previous years, that are still in the accounts maintained by the city and state of New York. Those funds continuing to available to them. So I know that there were some -- there was a suggestion that somehow there were unmet needs. The fact is there are substantial resources that continue to be available, and in the context of this budget, the administration is proposing to add another $255 million on top of that. The reason -- so that's a -- again, this is a substantial sum of money that would be dedicated to things like homeland security, resilience and other things that are critical to the well-being and safety of the people of New York. The reason the $255 million number is significant is not because that is this year's annual commitment, but if you take a look at the last two years and the way those funds have been spent, the last two years combined, city and state officials have spent, out of this collection of funds, about $125 million or $150 million. So it's not just that there are significant sums in reserve, it's that the amount of money that's being provided under this budget proposal far exceeds the expenditures that have been made in the last two years combined. And that's the point that we're making. So we've had our differences with Senator Schumer over national security, and those differences have been well chronicled, including as recently as yesterday. But what we're focused on is making sure that people understand the facts about the commitment that we have made to our homeland security and the way that we have backed up that commitment in the context of the budget process. QUESTION: Thank you. 14:27:47 EARNEST: All right. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING WITH JOSH EARNEST - CUTS
Thursday, February 18, 2016 White House Briefing with Josh Earnest DC Slugs: 1230 WH BRIEF STIX FS37 73 & 1230 WH BRIEF CUTS FS38 74 AR: 16x9 Disc #991/975 & 936/976 NYFS: WASH3 (4523) / WASH4 (4524) 12:54:14 EARNEST: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. Nice to see a good crowd here today. I have, joining me at the briefing, the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes. As many of you know and have covered, Ben was instrumental in implementing the president's vision for advancing our Cuba policy. And we made a pretty historic announcement today that, next month, President Obama and the first lady will be traveling to Cuba. And so Ben is here to talk a little bit about what we hope to accomplish over the course of that trip. And then he'll stay and take as many questions as you all have about that trip. I shall also point out today is also the day that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training in Arizona. (LAUGHTER) So I know there are a lot of Royals fans that have opening day circled on their calendar because they're squaring off against Ben Rhodes' New York Mets in Kansas City. So a nice World Series rematch there. So Ben, do you want to do a little topper, and then we'll take questions? 12:55:12 RHODES: Josh, I'd point out Yoenis Cespedes will be reporting to the Mets spring training, so... EARNEST: That's good. That's good. (LAUGHTER) RHODES: ... in keeping with the Cuban theme here... EARNEST: Kendrys Morales... (CROSSTALK) RHODES: OK. So I'll just make a few opening comments. You saw the announcement that the president will be going to Cuba with the first lady on March 21st and 22nd. This is the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge. As we've noted, Calvin Coolidge traveled there on a battleship, so the optic will be quite different from the get-go here. But I just wanted to step back and put this in a little bit of context. Clearly this has been a sea change in terms of U.S. policy towards Cuba and U.S.-Cuban relations over the last year and a half since President Obama and President Castro announced on December 17th, 2014 that we would have a process of normalizing relations. So to date since we've made that announcement, there have been a number of steps forward. First of all, we intensively negotiated over several months the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which culminated in Secretary Kerry traveling to Havana and raising the flag over our embassy. This embassy allows us to much more actively engage the Cuban people and the Cuban government, to facilitate travel to Cuba from many different delegations from the United States and to pursue bilateral cooperation on a number of issues. And we've had an ongoing process of bilateral dialogues with the Cubans. What we've seen is enormous interest from the Cuban people in this opening, and from people in the United States. And we've had businesses travel down to Cuba, state and local governments, academic exchanges and a significant increase in American travel to Cuba. There's been a 54 percent increase in the number of Americans visiting Cuba since that announcement. I think we've also seen that the opening to Cuba holds out real promise to improve the lives of the Cuban people. And this is really at the core of our policy. Our judgment was that the embargo that was in place was doing nothing to achieve its stated aims of bringing about a political change in Cuba. In fact, the Castro government, under Fidel and then Raul Castro, had been in place for many decades, and it was also hurting the Cuban people because they were cut off from the United States. They were cut off, in many ways, from the world. And they were, again, not benefiting from U.S. policy. And we're seeking to reverse that dynamic. We've made a number of regulatory changes to increase travel and commerce to Cuba. Those, again, have had some benefits. The increased -- significant increases in remittances that go to Cuba -- that directly benefits Cuban families. The increased travel benefits the nascent Cuban private sector, the cuenta-propistas, shop owners, restaurant owners, U.S. companies like Airbnb have gone into Cuba. This is their fastest growing market. That means travelers staying directly in Cuban homes, benefiting the Cuban people. And increasingly, as businesses have gone down and had discussions with the Cuban government, we're finding out ways that they can establish a presence. And just earlier this week, (inaudible) announced it's going to start to operate the first U.S.- owned factory in Cuba that will provide tractors for small farmers. These are just some indications of the fact that increased trade, commerce and travel is going to benefit U.S. companies that are very interested in operating in Cuba, but ultimately, it's going to directly benefit the Cuban people. Now, we have the potential to significantly increase those travel lengths with the announcement that was made earlier this week, that we will be restoring direct flights between the United States and Cuba for the first time in several decades. That will allow up to 110 flights to Cuba every day. That's more people-to-people engagement and more opening between our two countries. We've raised a number of issues repeatedly with the Cuban government, in terms of steps that we think that they could take to improve conditions on the island, both economically and human rights. 12:59:33 We have seen some progress with respect to Internet access, in terms of additional wireless Internet hotspots and efforts to link neighborhood -- neighborhoods to broadband connections, but we'd like to see more in that space. And so we continue to indicate to the Cuban government that Internet connectivity is essential to the ability of the Cuban people to connect with the global economy. It also, again, advances their ability to access information. 13:00:11 RHODES: We've also been supportive of the reforms that have created more space for a private sector within Cuba, self-employed Cubans, again cuentapropistas. And this is an area where we believe we can continue to increase our economic engagement and seed reforms within Cuba that can empower the Cuban people. At the same time, we, of course, have significant differences with Cuba on issues related to human rights which we continue to raise directly with them. You know, they took some steps in releasing political prisoners and hosting the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross last year, but we'd like, of course, to see more respect for the basic fundamental rights of the Cuban people, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech. 13:00:45 So as we considered whether to go this year to Cuba, the president's judgment was that, number one. going to Cuba was an important step forward in signaling this new beginning between our two countries and peoples; and also importantly that going to Cuba could help enlarge this space that benefits the Cuban people and increases ties between our countries. And that in fact going earlier this year would allow us to try to get more done both around his visit and in the days and months that follow. 13:01:18 So what we'll be focusing on with respect to the visit is how can we take the changes we've made in our policies and regulations and try to connect them to changes and reforms that the Cubans are making so that there's more commercial activity, so that there's more of an opening for U.S. businesses, but importantly for Cubans to benefit from that activity and to be able to access more resources and, again, achieve a better life. How can we expand our people-to-people ties so that there's increased travel but also increased cooperation in a number of areas? And we've had good cooperation for instance, discussions on issues related to medical cooperation, cancer vaccines. There are other areas where we can expand our people-to-people engagement. 13:02:08 How are we supporting and encouraging efforts around, as I said, increased access to the internet and telecommunications in Cuba. How is Cuba, again, investing in this nascent private sector there. And, of course, how are we engaging not just the Cuban government but the Cuban people and Cuban society and speaking out for the human rights that we support around the world. And certainly on this trip, the president will have the opportunity to engage not just the Cuban government but Cuban civil society, Cuban entrepreneurs, Cubans from different walks of life. So it's an important opportunity, this trip. It's historic in nature. But also, we see it as a means of pushing forward this normalization process trying to achieve greater opening between the United States and Cuba commercially but also supporting and advancing the values that we care about, all of which taken together we believe will be enormously beneficial to the Cuban people and, frankly, to U.S. interests. Following the trip to Cuba, I'd just note the president will be traveling to Argentina. You know, the Cuba opening also has to be seen as part of an effort by the United States to significantly increase our engagement in the hemisphere. This is a region that had long rejected our Cuba policy. Our Cuba policy had, in fact, isolated the United States more than it isolated Cuba in the hemisphere. 13:03:33 Argentina is a country that, until recently, had a president who had, I'll say problematic relations with the United States. The new president there has indicated his interest in beginning and restoring and renewing U.S.-Argentina relations. That will be the business of that trip. So we'll be able to discuss how to increase our diplomatic, economic and other forms of cooperation. 13:04:22 I'll just close by saying that we've been engaging the Cuban government leading up to today, between -- but we've also been engaging the Cuban-American community that follows these issues very closely and will continue to do so. We've been engaging with our business community, with human rights advocates and we will continue to do so between now and the trip. And we believe at the end of the day, part of what makes the Cuba issue so unique is the interest and passion that Cuban-Americans feel about it. We want to make sure that we're hearing their voices as we prepare for what will be a truly historic occasion. 13:04:46 So I'll stop there and take questions. Yep, Jeff. QUESTION: Will the president meet with dissidents when he's in Cuba? And how would you negotiate that with the Cuban government? RHODES: Yes. He'll be meeting with dissidents; with members of civil society including those who certainly oppose the Cuban government's policies, just as when he went to Panama for the summit of the Americas and met with Raul Castro. He also met with critics of the Cuban government in his civil society roundtable. 13:05:20 I think the point we make to the Cuban government is that we engage civil society in countries around the world, that this is part of how the president does business. When he travels in different regions, he meets with a broad range of actors and Cuba is no different. So we may have a complex history but you know, the fact that we meet with and support people who are seeking to have their voices heard is part of what the United States does. And that doesn't mean that we're seeking to overthrow the Cuban government, it means that we're seeking to support basic universal values that, again, we would care about in any country. QUESTION: Do you expect him to see Fidel Castro while he's there? Do you expect this to be tied in any way to the Colombia peace talks? 13:06:07 RHODES: So I wouldn't expect him to meet with Fidel Castro. Raul Castro is now the president of Cuba. He'll certainly meet with President Castro. With respect to the Colombian peace process, we have had good cooperation from Cuba on that issue. The Cubans have hosted the talks between the Colombia government so far. We've had a representative, Bernie Aronson who's attending a number of those discussions. We and the Cubans together have worked to support the Colombians as they are pursuing a peace agreement. 13:06:51 I think it will certainly be a subject that we discuss with the Cuban government that the president discusses with President Castro. At the end of the day, as the president told President Santos when he was here, we want the best deal for Colombia and the Colombian people and that's what matters here. And we're willing to support that in any way we can. QUESTION: Back when, you know, the opening -- when the start of normalization was announced, you guys mentioned some things that you expected the Cuban government to do, including the release of those prisoners. But ahead of a presidential trip to Cuba, were there any conditions or was there anything specific that you expected them to meet before this happened? RHODES: Yes. So I think the basic question that we've explored, including discussions with Cubans is whether we could use demonstrate that normalization is making progress. There are very different types of steps each of us have to take. On the U.S. side we've been methodically reviewing and in some cases changing our regulations to allow for more travel and commerce and we will continue to do so in the weeks leading up to the trip. With respect to the Cubans, what we would like to see is that -- you know, they are taking the types of steps that allow those regulatory changes to take hold. That allow U.S. businesses to start and operate in Cuba in ways that benefit the Cuban people that allow for, again, greater opportunity and access to information for the Cuban people. 13:08:12 So, again, it's not as specific as the process we had with the Vatican in terms of the commitments that were announced on December 17th. But we do want there to be concrete progress that creates momentum for normalization, that demonstrates normalization benefits the Cuban people and the American people. And that frankly, it can help make the changes that we're pursuing irreversible going forward. So there's a range of steps that the Cuban government could take to advance that process. And we'll be continuing to discuss that with them in the coming weeks. Now, of course, on human rights we regularly raise a whole host of issues around certain cases of prisoners, certain patterns of detention and certain limitations on rights. That will be of course part of the discussion as well. Yes, Margaret? QUESTION: Since you announced this sort of normalization process, there's been a dramatic spike in the number of Cubans fleeing for the U.S. Are those numbers sustainable and is that wet foot/dry foot policy in the U.S. is something the president is going to address? 13:09:33 RHODES: So we've seen certainly an uptick in the number of Cubans, particularly Cubans traveling to central America as part of an effort to make their way to the United States. I think that's tied to perhaps expectations around our policy changes but also greater freedom of movement for Cubans to travel from Cuba. And frankly in some cases increased resources from some changes in our policies in other countries. We are not planning to institute change with respect to wet foot dry foot, but we do regularly, again, look at our broader migration policies. We have a dialogue with the Cubans about those issues. We've worked very closely with our Central American partners as they've dealt with this influx of Cubans, who are making their way to the United States. 13:10:29 So we will be addressing the migration issue. But again, our focus is on how can conditions improve in Cuba, so that over time, there's more economic opportunity and less of a need, frankly, for Cubans to have to pursue opportunity elsewhere. QUESTION: And will you be bringing a delegation of congressional members with you, particularly since you need congressional help to lift the embargo and those big things that are still in the way? 13:10:55 RHODES: We'll certainly want to incorporate members of Congress into the president's trip. There are a number of members who've been -- in both parties I should add, this is an issue that does engender bipartisan support. We will want to make sure that they're incorporated into what we're doing. QUESTION: Are you satisfied with what the Cuban government has done on human rights? You sound disappointed. RHODES: Look, I think -- I don't think we will be satisfied. I don't think we've been satisfied to date, and frankly, I think we're always going to have differences with this government because they have a different political system. At the same time, even with those kind of fundamental differences about how they organize their political system, we do think that there are steps that they can take that can improve conditions for the Cuban people and be a part of the evolution that is taking place on the island. Thus far, we've seen these incremental steps, with respect to internet access and connectivity. We've seen some incremental increase in their engagement with the international community on these issues. I mentioned the head of the ICRC. But we'd like to see more. QUESTION: Then why go now? RHODES: Because we believe not going and isolating Cuba doesn't serve to advance those issues. That we will be in a better position to support human rights, and to support a better life for the Cuban people by engaging them and raising these issues directly. And whether that's individual human rights cases we're concerned about, whether that's the types of reforms that could broaden opportunity for the Cuban people, or whether that's just how do we directly engage Cuban civil society, so that we are speaking out for the values that we support? Again, in our judgment, engagement is a far more effective means of addressing those issues than isolation. QUESTION: How concerned are you that all of this is still very reversible, is it not? 13:12:51 RHODES: So, we want to make this policy change irreversible. And that means that we want links between Cubans and Americans, and the links between our businesses and the engagement between our countries to gain such momentum that there's an inevitability to the opening that is taking place, and to the increase in activity between our countries. To be very specific, we have an embassy opened in Cuba. That embassy allows us to travel more widely across the region -- across the country to engage the Cuban people. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to shut down an embassy that we have open. You have significant increases in Americans traveling to Cuba -- that will only get higher as we institute direct flights and other measures. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to tell a lot of Americans that their government says they can't be allowed to travel to Cuba. We have a lot of interest from the business community and the Chamber of Commerce in supporting this opening. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to tell American businesses that they have to shudder projects that they have initiated in Cuba. So, our objective here is to do as much as we can with the time we have remaining to make this an irreversible policy. And frankly, I think the indications, to date, are that the American people support that. QUESTION: Thanks, Ben. QUESTION: On Guantanamo Bay, how do you anticipate the conversation going about the property there? And secondarily, will there be a conversation about reparations? There are a number of Cuban-Americans, in particular in South Florida, who lost potentially millions, if not billions in personal property and assets. Will that be part of discussion as well? RHODES: So on Guantanamo Bay, I'm sure that will be part of the discussion. I know that, because I've had that discussion many times with my Cuban counterparts. You know, they are insistent obviously that our presence there is not legitimate and that the facility be returned to them. But again, that is not on the table as a part of our discussions. We're focused on the range of issues that I discussed, but I'm sure they will raise it. It continues to be an issue of concern to them. RHODES: With respect to the claims issue, that will certainly be on the agenda as well. We have initiated under the State Department's leadership a dialogue with the Cubans on the issue of claims. There are many claimants in the United States. We've been engaging many of them to try to determine the best way forward to see that, again, their -- their concerns are satisfied. So the Cubans also, frankly, have a substantial number of claims against us as well. So, there's a formal dialogue on claims and I think it will be part of the agenda as well. QUESTION: Just so I can circle back quickly on the prison, that is not going to be part of this? There's no way the government is going to give that back. There's not going to be a provision to give that back. That is not a part of this trip. RHODES: That's not a part of this trip. Yes? QUESTION: Who determines which dissidents the president will meet with? Is that something that's negotiated? Do you already have -- is that something that's already been discussed? 13:16:09 RHODES: We determine, you know, who we, you know, meet with in different countries. And we've certainly indicated to the Cubans that this is something the president will be doing on this trip, as he does on other trips. Yes? 13:16:18 DEVIN DWYER QUESTION: I was hoping you could flesh out why now. You've talked previously about using the prospect of the president's trip as something of a carrot to get some of the concrete progress that you are hoping to see. You know, previously, you've said that you'd go when there was enough progress. This morning you wrote on media that you're going because there's insufficient progress. What's changed there? RHODES: Well, you know, the fact is there's a little bit of both in the sense that what we want is to take all this opening and all this activity, and, you know, again, what we've seen over the last year, all this interest from businesses and state and local governments and the Cubans, and start to make it concrete; start to show outcomes and results. You're beginning to see that take hold, you know, again, the direct flights agreement that was reached. You have some businesses beginning to be able to operate in Cuba. But we've also been having discussions with the Cubans about all these issues. You know, what -- what more can we do so that that becomes the beginning of something and is not a trickle, but leads to a much more significant flow of activity? And so we are confident that at this point it is both the case that we have made progress in normalization. We've dealt with a number of the important issues that had to be addressed at the beginning of that process. But now we want to see more of that connectivity come on line in terms of, again, commercial activity; in terms of many of the issues that we've been discussing with the Cuban government. And frankly, given the choice between going in December when, frankly, it would just kind of be a vacation down to Cuba, or going now and trying to get some business done, we believe that the time is right to go and lean in and try to get as much done on this trip as we can, and try to create as much momentum as we can to carry that forward throughout the year. 13:18:08 DEVIN DWYER QUESTION: You don't think you've lost leverage? 13:18:10 RHODES: No, I don't think so. Because, you know, again, first of all, this has been an ongoing process of discussions with the Cubans. And look, the president's also going to Cuba and, you know, what he -- what he says and how that trip goes, as you all know from covering many trips, will depend on, you know, whether we are demonstrating progress. So, I think that the interest that both countries have in showing the progress on normalization and having this be a productive and successful visit I think continues to create the conditions where there's an incentive to get things done. QUESTION: Ben, will President Obama get a chance to address the Cuban people? RHODES: You know, we have not developed a schedule, Mark. But I certainly think that he would want to look for some opportunity where he'll be able to speak to the Cuban people. So, I don't want to suggest that we have a particular venue in mind, but, you know, again, I think he sees this as an opportunity where he's meeting the Cuban government, but he's also going to want to be engaging broadly with the Cuban people. QUESTION: So, you would -- you're looking for -- to arrange something like that? 13:19:18 RHODES: Something, yes. But again, it's still preliminary. We haven't really begun to flesh out the elements of a schedule yet. QUESTION: And would you expect a reciprocal invitation to be extended to President Castro? RHODES: Well, we'll take this one visit at a time. We were able to meet President Castro in New York. That was at UNGA, though. But our focus now is on this visit. QUESTION: What specific policies are you hoping that the Cubans will announce either during or after this visit? And do you expect that you guys will do an executive order to lift the travel ban? Do you expect that you can? QUESTION: And can I ask you one on turkey. The Turks are accusing the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds of the attack yesterday and calling on you guys to sever ties to the YPG. Wondering, what is your response to that? And two, have you seen any evidence that their claims are true? EARNEST: So we have not determined responsibility. We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms the attacks that took place in turkey. You know, we as a government have not settled upon assignment of responsibility, but we'll be engaging with the Turks on this. You know, we've made clear to the Turks that -- in all of our engagements with the YPG and other Kurdish elements, that we made very clear to them the importance of our alliance with Turkey and the importance of them not engaging in efforts that would undermine what should be our focus, which is the shared threat of ISIL. So this is something though we'll be talking directly to Turkey about. We'll of course want to make sure that their security concerns as an ally are taken very seriously. And we'll want to make sure that the different actors that we're working with in Syria are focusing their attention where it should be, which is on the counter ISIL effort. On your first Cuba questions. You know, we have been steadily making regulatory changes since December 17th. We -- at the end of January announced our last tranche. But I would expect that that process will continue. So as we have additional regulatory changes to make, we will announce them. I don't want to preview what they are because that's, you know, an ongoing process that involves our efforts to ensure that, you know, not only are we acting consistent with the laws that are on the books, even if we would lift the embargo if we could, but that we're also focused on the right issues and areas. Generally, what we've aimed to do is promote additional travel, commerce and economic activity in Cuba that, again, we believe benefits the Cuban people. In terms the steps the Cuban government can take. You know, again, I don't want to be overly prescriptive from here. I would say we have talked to our business community. There are a number of things that Cuba could do that could make it easier for businesses to operate in Cuba and to operate in ways that benefit the Cuban people, to have a presence and to be able to engage Cuban workers. So, again, there's actually a delegation here this week from Cuba, including minister of trade and we're discussing what are the practical steps to could be taken that again connect our regulatory changes with their economic reform efforts. There are also issues that we just regularly and consistently have raised. As I mentioned, internet access has been one of those. Our support for, again, their nascent private sector as a part of that economic reform agenda has been one. And then on human rights, I'm sure we'll have a number of specific issues that we'll be continuing to raise between now and the trip. We'll want to make clear that, you know, in any case we'll be focused on those issues because the American people care about them, the president cares about them. So, again, I think between now and the trip and on the trip itself, we'll want to have steps taken by both the United States and Cuba that show how this is moving forward. And then there will be areas of bilateral cooperation that we're pursuing with Cuba, where we'll be exploring what can get done around the trip. QUESTION: Can I ask you just one more. EARNEST: Yep. QUESTION: Did you guys talk to folks on The Hill, particularly your critics, of this policy in regards to this trip? EARNEST: We've been doing outreach to The Hill. I myself spoke to a number of members. I don't like to read those out. Some -- you know, I definitely spoke to people of different viewpoints, people who are critical of what we're doing and people who are very supportive. I will say that, you know, our judgment of what's taken place, as you see, increases in support for this policy on Capitol Hill. That this is moving in the direction it's moving in the direction of opening. And you see that with a number of people who are supporting lifting the travel ban in Congress. You see that in some initial efforts to lift the embargo. And you see it as something that crosses party lines. So you have Senator Leahy on the one hand, but also Senator Flake who is also very supportive of what we're doing. And so, part of what I think the opportunity is here is you have bipartisan support for this policy that has been growing and we want to push that forward. RHODES: Yep. QUESTION: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit -- I think critics have pointed to the spike in arrests of dissidents in Cuba as evidence that -- you know, maybe they have Wi-Fi hot spots now, but kind of -- there's actually been a regression on human rights issues. So I'm wondering -- do you guys see this as having been a net positive, or -- or has this issue kind of been -- overshadowed some of the gains that have been made, especially economically? And I wanted to ask really -- really quickly if there has been progress made on returning some American fugitives that -- that are now in Cuba. And then on Argentina, if the U.S. sees now that there is a new president -- or a new first family for the first time in a long time, whether they can be an ally, and what kind of reception you expect the president to get, especially considering the one that President Bush received (inaudible)? 13:25:57 RHODES: Yeah. So on human rights, first of all, we see everything that we're doing as being in the net positive for the -- the -- the lives and human rights of the Cuban people. I'd say a number of things. First of all, the -- the economic issues, ultimately, are connected to the human rights issues because it gets at are the Cuban people going to benefit from having a better well-being, are they going to be empowered by greater access to information and the outside world. But what we're also seeing is the expectations of the Cuban people have gone up for the future. And that's a good thing. We want the Cuban people to be hopeful for the future. We want them to see that there are possibilities for them to be continuing to pursue a better life. What we do see with their government is they have continued, in particular, practice of these short-term detentions that are, again, deeply concerning. The -- the number of kind of long-term political prisoners, along the lines of a number of the people who were released around December 17th -- those types of detentions have gone down over the years and -- and months. But what we see is this practice of short-term detentions, harassment of people seeking to express basic rights. And that's an issue that we'll be raising directly with the -- the Cuban government. And the fact of the matter is, the Cuban people see this as a hopeful time, as a moment of opportunity. And it's important that the Cuban government recognize that, you know, those aspirations of their people are going to -- ultimately are down to the benefit of Cuba, and is not something to be put down. So it will be -- it will be on the agenda. But our -- as we look at this, it's important to remember, we tried it one way for 50 years. We had an embargo. We had democracy funding. And you did not have a promotion of human rights on the island. We believe that this is a much better way to ultimately support the Cuban people and help them achieve a better life. I'll give you just one example. You know, the U.S. government had an embargo that limited the Cuban government -- the Cuban people's ability to access all kinds of goods, at the same time we were seeking to provide phones to some individual Cubans. Well, why not just try to allow all Cubans to have access to telecommunications? You know, that, in our judgment, is a better way of advancing the things that we care about. With respect to Argentina, we definitely anticipate that they'll be a closer partner on a range of issues. And in fact, President Macri's been a strong voice for democracy and human rights in Latin America. He signaled that he'd like to have closer economic and diplomatic cooperation with the United States. So we believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relations with Argentina. And it mirrors the sentiment we see across the region, particularly since our Cuba opening, where there's much more receptivity to working with the United States. So I'd imagine the reception will be very positive, and it speaks to the goodwill throughout the hemisphere for -- for President Obama. Yep. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE). You talked about the embargo and trying to get it lifted. The trade minister earlier this week described things that he thinks the White House can do without the lifting of the embargo. The -- allowing the dollar to be used in a third country, and permitting U.S. import of rum and cigars, of course -- that might be something... (CROSSTALK) RHODES: I know that doesn't interest anybody here, but... (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Have those things been considered? Is it too soon? When would be appropriate to consider those, especially if you continue to have the intransigence that you see in Congress, to lift the embargo? RHODES: Yeah. We've been considering those issues, and -- and essentially, what -- you know -- look, our judgment is that the embargo should be lifted. You know, short of that, we want to look at what are the areas where we can open up space that can promote the greatest travel and commercial activity that ultimately, again, benefits the Cuban people. RHODES: So we are looking at those issues, and as I said to Carol, you know, I'd expect that, just as we've kind of on a regular basis been rolling out these different regulatory changes, that we'll be able to continue to do that in the coming weeks. 13:30:18 We think that's in our owe interest. You know, we think that helps advance the interests of Americans who want to travel to Cuba to engage the Cuban people or American businesses that want to engage in Cuba, but also, frankly, in helping ordinary Cubans. So we'll be looking at that. Yeah? QUESTION: What will be the technical process of doing that? RHODES: So it's a very technical process, and essentially, what it involves is different agencies of the U.S. government, in particular as it relates to our sanctions policy, Treasury, where we very much would urge the confirmation of Adam Zubin because he oversees this office and it's very important work. Treasury reviewing our regulations and deciding what type of licenses to issue, what type of policy changes that can be made. And of course, everything that we do has to be reviewed by Office of Legal Counsel to ensure that it's consistent with existing law. Juliette? QUESTION: I have one specific question and one broader one. Specifically, the first lady doesn't go on that many foreign trips. Could you talk about what her participation means and whether the Obamas' daughters are going, because it does say the first family will meet with President (inaudible). And more broadly, could you talk more broadly with how the administration's work with Burma on similar issues regarding democratization has helped inform what's happening with Cuba, where you see parallels in order to get... 13:31:43 RHODES: So the first lady will be coming. I don't -- you know, I don't think we, you know, have an answer with respect to the children at this point, but the first lady will definitely be accompanying the president. You know, I think -- you know, she's taken a greater interest in issues related to girls' education internationally as we've moved into the second term. And again, that's beyond the United States. So that's been the substantive focus that she's had. But I also think that, you know, she looks for the appropriate opportunities that have, in part, to do with their schedules aligning and also in part having to do with focusing on regions where I think she can help us advance our efforts. And if you look at this type of trip, you know, what the first lady is, frankly singularly good at is she's an enormously popular figure in different countries around the world, generates a lot of good will and is a very able messenger for America and its values. And so going to a place like Cuba for the first time in this presidency and the first time in many years and having this kind of historic opening to the Cuban people, I think it's very important that she's there and that her voice is a part of the conversation. And that, you know, this region more generally of the Americas is one that she's interested in engaging. So we very much welcome her participation. With respect to Burma, I do think there -- you know, there are some parallels and obviously a lot of differences. The core parallel is that we believe that the policy of not engaging Burma and Cuba was not working in either case. You know, when we came into office, in Burma you'd had a military junta ruled with an iron fist for many years, you had Aung San Suu Kyi and many other people in prison, you had an economy that was closed off from the rest of the world. And we felt that simply using isolation and sanctions wasn't working to resolve that situation, and so the president engaged and we engaged broadly in Burma. So we engaged the government, but we also engaged civil society. We also engaged entrepreneurs. We also sought to promote economic ties to show the benefit that could come from more engagement with the international community. And we've seen that have an enormous effect in just a small number of years in Burma in opening up space there and restoring their connections to the international community, and ultimately in very successful election that took place late last year. And I'd note, you know, the president traveled to Burma twice, you know, even when those questions were still very much in play. You know, our judgment is you don't wait until the story's over to show up and find out what happened. That just puts us on the sidelines. And that by going to a place like Burma he was able to advance the things that we care about. He was able to raise the hopes of the people there and he was able to restore a relationship with a country that had been deeply estranged from the United States. RHODES: You know, Cuba's very different in that -- in terms of size, in terms of the issues in play, in terms of politics, but I think the common thread is that we believe we can accomplish more through engagement. We believe that engagement should be with the government but also with the people of the country. We believe greater connectivity to the United States and the international community, diplomatically, economically, you know, ultimately is going to be to the benefit of the Cuban people. QUESTION: Just a follow up, would you say that however to do this in Cuba because you don't have this kind of mobilized opposition you the way you had in Burma? Is that one of the things that potentially makes Democratization more challenging? 13:35:40 RHODES: Well, you had Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. So there was an opposition figure with enormous renown whereas in terms of the politics in Cuba, you have a one-party system and then elements of opposition. It's not analogous to the long standing prominence of the NLD Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma including their running and winning an election in the late '80s. So the political circumstances are certainly different. Julie? RHODES: Thanks. As you've outlined, the United States government has done a lot to sort of relax our restrictions and facilitate some more travel and commerce with Cuba. They haven't done nearly as much on their end. If I'm not mistaken, imports were down from the U.S. last year substantially and as you mentioned they haven't done anywhere near what we'd like to see them do on human rights. So can you just sort of address this criticism that you're getting from some of the opponents of the policy, that this trip really rewards a regime that in many ways is still -- you know, very much against American values and has not done what we wanted -- or what the president wanted to see happen like when he first announced this a few years? RHODES: First of all, we do still have enormous restrictions in place. We have an embargo in place. The Cubans themselves I think, you know certainly -- you know, continue to point at all of those restrictions as a constraint. The fact of the matter is we do believe that they could do some things -- practical things that could make it easier for businesses to operate in Cuba, to establish a presence in Cuba, to engage Cuban workers directly, to interact with their private sector. So there's a range of issues that we've been discussing with them. And we've been able to find, you know, in some cases direct solutions. You know, Airbnb can get in because they're directly engaging the Cuban people in that private sector. Cleaver was able to fund a means of establish a factory that will benefit small farmers through the production of tractors but we wanted to do much more than that. We wanted to see the Cubans take steps that allow for an opening for U.S. businesses because ultimately we believe if our businesses are operating there and there's travel there that that's going to be the benefit of the people. So, again, a degree of progress -- some steps by the Cuban government on whether it's Iterate access or specific arrangement with U.S. companies, but not enough. And that leads to the core point which is, we believe the best way to try to push this forward is for the president to go. That essentially there's been a whole range of activity, part of what businesses have been able to do is -- and we've been able to do is kind of look under the hood of the Cuban regulations and the Cuban legal framework over the course of the last year. This is not a country that was in many ways designed or prepared to immediately engage the U.S. private sector but I think we now have that understanding. So I think there is an opening for us to try to push a much greater degree of activity through. Again, the basic point we would make to critics is the way to carry this policy forward is to keep leaning forward, and to keep engaging more, and to keep pressing for greater activity, and to keep pressing for the Cubans take steps in line with our steps that open up this space for the countries. And pulling back it would only make it harder to achieve those things but a presidential visit is a forcing mechanism and I think it has potential benefit of, you know, making our government and the Cuban government do as much as we can to make normalization move forward. QUESTION: Do you think it's fair to them you want to see more changes on their end in exchange for this trip as in a run-up to offering a visit between the two presidents? 13:40:00 RHODES: Again, it's not -- you know, it's not a quid pro quo, but I think we would like the trip to show the concrete progress in normalization. And so it's an opportunity to demonstrate results. And frankly, insofar as the Cuban government wants to meet the expectations of their own people, which have been raised by this opening to the United States, and help improve the livelihoods of the Cuban people, that that engagement will serve those objectives. So -- you know, we feel very strongly that engagement is a far preferable way of pursuing the things that America cares about than isolation. EARNEST: Good. (OFF-MIKE) take two in the back, and then we'll let... RHODES: Yeah. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) EARNEST: Olivier, you want to go next? QUESTION: Sure, I got a couple for you, Ben. One, building on Carol's question -- I think you alluded to this too -- any sign that Cuba's going to let American businesses directly hire from the Cuban labor pool? RHODES: So that's an issue that -- that's an example of an issue that we have continually raised with them. And we would like there to be, you know, increasing opportunities for American businesses to hire Cubans, and foreign businesses to hire Cubans. And again, sometimes that's very easy. If it's, you know, Airbnb contracting with a Cuban home, that's one thing. But if it's a U.S. company hiring workers, those are the types of issues that we're discussing with them. QUESTION: Any progress towards now nominating an ambassador in Cuba? RHODES: You know, that's something that -- you know, we're still working through. Again, as -- as some of you have heard me say, one of the reasons why we've been comfortable where we are is because we have an excellent chief of mission down there in Jeff DeLaurentis, who's -- you know, of ambassador rank, worked closely with Susan Rice when she was at the U.N., very well thought of in Cuba and in the United States. So we're comfortable with Jeff, but we're -- we're going to certainly be addressing the question of ambassador in the coming months. QUESTION: And finally, when U.S.-Vietnam relations were normalized, not quite 20 years ago, we heard a lot about how the previous approach had failed and how this was going to lead to greater openness. You read the State Department report on human rights now for Vietnam, and it's just ghastly. It's -- it's egregious political abuses. What do you say to critics who say that by broadening the American engagement with Cuba, you are, in effect, putting American businesses in the service of an authoritarian regime that's going to use them for patronage for jobs and is going to prop itself up that way? 13:42:33 RHODES: So, a few things. One, Vietnam is not 90 miles from Florida. Two, I think that, you know, what American businesses can bring is greater opportunity for Cubans, greater connectivity to the United States and to the Cuban-American community. Yes, I mean, if the Cuban economy improves, there'll be more resources for the government. But there'll be far more resources for the Cuban people. And if you look at the direction of the Cuban economy, a lot of the activity and a lot of the growth is in the cuenta-propista sector and is in sectors that are engaging the rest of the world. So we believe that American business is a net positive for the Cuban people, and that, over time, it is going to bring about real benefits and improvements in their lives. And then there's certain sectors, obviously, where -- where we can make -- you know, a critical difference, if you look at something like -- you know, telecommunications. The last thing I'd say is part of what's different is -- you know, we have a Cuban-American community that is deeply invested in the future of Cuba, that cares deeply about the well-being and the rights of the Cuban people. And I think what -- you know, we've heard from many of them is, they see that Cuba is changing. There is an evolution taking place in Cuba. And we can either be a part of that or not. And if we keep ourselves out of it, and the Europeans and others are there helping to shape this change that's taking place, that doesn't make a lot of sense. And that's why I think you have people like Carlos Gutierrez and other Cuban-Americans -- you know, who've come to this recognition that this is the moment for us to engage. You know, because, again, this is a government that was very comfortable, for over five decades, with the embargo in place and with the United States as essentially the source of legitimacy that they drew upon because of what we were trying to do to Cuba. We have seen Raul Castro begin to initiate a set of reforms in Cuba. They obviously aren't at the pace and scale that the United States would suggest with their economy. And it obviously doesn't get at the core political issues. But there's an evolution taking place. And we want to be a part of that evolution. We don't want to remove ourselves from it. EARNEST: Yes, ma'am, I'll give you the last one, in the back. QUESTION: Thank you so much. QUESTION: So, you know, the embargo is a big obstacle. Cuban -- the Cubans want it lifted because it's a big hurdle to normalizing relations. Can you talk about how it's playing on the campaign trail? Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz already said that these are, you know, unjustifiable concessions. So can you talk about whether or not the president is concerned, as others have said here today, that should a Republican win the White House, all of this is going to be reverted? And then for Argentina, can you talk -- can you elaborate more on the timing of the trip? It's been two decades, as you said before. What specific message is the president bringing to President Macri? 13:45:40 RHODES: Well, I think the timing is we wanted to go early in this administration given that the president, President Macri, had, you know, expressed his interests in renewing our relationship. So we want to sit down with him early in his term to chart the way forward. But also demonstrate that, you know, a cornerstone of the president's legacy is his approach to Latin America, and that involves the Cuba opening, that involves the Colombia peace process, but it also involves making sure that we're leaving strong relations with important countries like Argentina. So -- and I think it's, you know, fitting to go on the back end of the Cuba trip for that reason as well. With respect to the -- your first question, you know, first of all, again, the long-standing approach that those senators have supported has failed to produce any results. The Cuban government is still in place. It's not as if, you know, one more year of the embargo is going to bring transformational change. This is a policy that we pursued for decades. We have an evidentiary basis to make an assessment that it's not working. But even beyond that ,it wasn't helping the Cuban people. The Cuban people were suffering because of the embargo and because of these restrictive policies, and the fact of the matter is the thing that we should all agree on, and I think we do all agree on, is we want a better life for the Cuban people. The Cuban people support these changes. Every indication is that they overwhelmingly support engagement with the United States. So why would we, in service of our objective of helping the Cuban people, ignore their voices and tell them that they're going to have to continue to live under the embargo, and tell them that they're going to have to live cut off from the rest of the world. Let's listen to the Cuban people. They are invested in this. They see this as potentially leading to a better future. And, you know, moreover, I don't think that it's the right way to think about the changes we've made as not in our own interests. It's not a concession to have an embassy. That makes no sense. An embassy allows us to better represent our interests, to better engage civil society, to better facilitate American commerce, to better speak up for the things we care about. It's not a concession to allow Americans to travel to Cuba. Americans would very much like to travel to Cuba. So explaining to them that it's some concession to allow them to do something they want doesn't make a lot of sense either. And it's not a concession to allow American businesses to pursue opportunities that they are seeking in Cuba. That's in our own interest. That's the opposite of what a concession is. So I think, again, to just conclude on, you know, your question, the reason we think that this will be irreversible is because the logic of it is so clear. What we were doing was not working. This has a better chance of having a successful outcome for our interests. If people are traveling there, they're not going to want to be told they can't travel there anymore. If businesses are starting to operate there, they're not going to want to be told to shut down. If we have an embassy there, it doesn't make much sense to shut it down. If we have new opportunities in the Americas because we've gotten rid of this anchor on our standing in the region, it doesn't make much sense to immediately anger and alienate the Western Hemisphere by reversing this policy. And that's why we believe you see bipartisan members of Congress but also a diverse group of stakeholders from the Chamber of Commerce to many, many, many people in the Cuban-American community to the faith communities like the Catholic Church all supporting this change in policy. QUESTION: Is the president confident that either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton will continue his legacy in this foreign policy arena? RHODES: Without commenting on certain candidates, I mean, you know, I think the positions that they've taken clearly indicate support for our policy. And, you know, certainly we believe that, you know, they understand that the old approach didn't work and that this is a better way of pursuing things. 13:49:55 EARNEST: Thank you, Ben. I think as you can tell, there's obviously a lot of passion here in the -- in the White House and the administration for this change in policy. And so, I mean, we're certainly looking forward to the trip next month, and hopefully, many of you will be able to join us for that trip. EARNEST: So we've already been out here for an hour or so. I'm happy to take a few more questions that you have. Kevin, you can go first. QUESTION: One of your favorite topics. EARNEST: OK, I have a lot of favorite topics. QUESTION: So I'll ask about Donald trump, Pope Francis says anyone who wants to build a border wall is no Christian. What's the White House make of the Pope's comments and could his comments be extended to millions of Americans as well? 13:50:37 EARNEST: The pope has a spokesperson and so, you can certainly speak to that individual to -- for a greater understanding of what the pope was saying. I think I can just say as a general matter is that President Obama had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to address the national prayer breakfast where he talked about his own personal faith -- his own personal Christian faith and informed his view of the values and priorities that he has chosen to champion in the White House. And we've noted, I think on a number of occasions we've had the opportunity to note, that many of those values and priorities are not shared by Mr. Trump. So I will however though, extend to Mr. Trump the courtesy that he has not extended to the president and not use this opportunity to call into question the kind of private personal conversations that he's having with his god. All right. QUESTION: So he talked about wanting to see concrete progress from Cuba leading up to this trip. When I asked if there were any conditions or specific things that you wanted to see met before then; he was a little bit vague about it saying that, "there was a range of issues that would continue to be discussed." So can you clarify, are there -- when he says, "concrete steps," do you want to see certain things before the president sets foot there? 13:52:02 EARNEST: I think what Ben was referring to is the fact that over the course of the last 14 or 15 months since the president announced his policy change, we've seen a number of concrete steps taken by the Cuban government to begin to normalize relations between our two countries. As Ben said at the closing, "the president announced this change in policy because he believed that that change would be good for the Cuban people, but most importantly, it would be good for the U.S. and the American people and the American economy." And that has manifested itself in a variety of ways, whether it is the opening of an embassy, the re-establishing of commercial flights, or even greater opportunities for American businesses inside of Cuba. You can certainly anticipate that in the lead-up to this trip, during the trip, and certainly after, that we're going to continue to seek additional concrete steps that we believe advance the interests of the United States. QUESTION: So there are some specific things that you want to see before he lands? 13:53:03 EARNEST: Well, we would like to see continued progress in the direction of more normal relations between our two countries. We believe that kind of progress would serve the interests not just of the Cuban people, but of the citizens of the United States. QUESTION: Why doesn't he want to meet with Fidel Castro? EARNEST: Well, the president -- President Obama is planning -- I think it's been noted -- to meet with President Raul Castro. He's the leader of the country. The president will have essentially a two-day visit to Cuba and we're going to have some limited time. So it's been noted that the details are still being worked out but at this point I would not anticipate a meeting with the former president. QUESTION: Why doesn't the president want to attend Scalia's funeral? 13:53:52 EARNEST: Well, Michelle, as we discussed yesterday, the president and first lady tomorrow will be traveling to the Supreme Court building to pay their respects to Justice Scalia whose body will be lying in repose at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has organized this opportunity for the American public to travel to the Supreme Court on Friday and pay tribute to Justice Scalia. That's exactly what the president and first lady will be doing tomorrow. Like thousands of Americans, not all of whom agree with Justice Scalia's view of the law, they do agree that his service to the country and his service to an institution that is critical to our democracy warrants special attention. And the president will pay his respects to Justice Scalia and his service to the country by traveling to the supreme court tomorrow. QUESTION: Why wouldn't he just go to the funeral? 13:54:50 EARNEST: Well, as I also noted yesterday, Vice President Biden who had his own personal relationship with Justice Scalia and his family will be representing the administration at the funeral. Obviously, when the Vice President travels to some place his security footprint is at least a little bit lighter. But given his personal relationship with the family and given the president's desire to find a respectful way to pay tribute to Justice Scalia's service to the country, we believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement. I think all of this should be viewed in the context of the comments that the president offered in person on Saturday evening just a few hours after receiving the news of Justice Scalia's death. The president addressed the news media and spent the bulk of his remarks paying tribute to Justice Scalia and his life. When asked about Justice Scalia at a news conference on Tuesday, the president once again took the opportunity to speak at length about his respect for Justice Scalia's intellect and commitment to the rule of law and his service to the country. And so I think all of that taken together reflects the kind of approach that I think that most Americans are looking for from their leaders in Washington, D.C. There's so much rancor and politics and partisanship that we allow ourselves to get drawn into differing -- different corners to the extent that some people actually want to use the funeral of the Supreme Court justice as some sort of political cudgel. The president doesn't think that that's appropriate, and in fact, what the president thinks is appropriate is respectfully paying tribute to high-profile patriotic American citizens even when you don't agree on all the issues. And that's what he's going to do. All right, Tara. QUESTION: You talked earlier in the briefing about the progress with human rights. And I'm wondering about the -- there was a time when the State Department had submitted names of political prisoners, and about 50 of them were released and then some were re-arrested. So I'm wondering how Ben Rhodes and the other officials are trying to make sure that people don't get re-arrested and what some of the unintended consequences might be of the president's visit. EARNEST: I would refer you to the State Department for an updated assessment about the condition of those conversations because the truth is these are the kinds of conversations that are going on between U.S. diplomats and Cuban diplomats on a -- essentially a daily basis at this point. A regular part of our engagement with the Cuban people -- or with the Cuban government has been focused on ensuring that the Cuban people are empowered and have their human rights protected. And we believe that there is a lot more that the Cuban government needs to do to do that. And that is a consistent part of our engagement with them. I don't -- I don't have an update on that at this point, but there's no misunderstanding about that. And that is precisely why the president has sought to deepen the engagement between our two countries so that we can be more effective in advocating for the human rights of the Cuban people. OK, Julie. QUESTION: Thanks. Can you give us any sense of timing or a process for when the president is planning to kind of begin rolling out his choice for Scalia's successor, who he wants to nominate? Are the meetings beginning already? Have you started talking to people personally? How do you expect that to play out (inaudible) 13:58:33 EARNEST: Well, let me answer that in a -- in a couple different ways. I would expect that as the president contemplates this very important decision, that he will consult with a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of viewpoints. Some of those conversations will eventually become public. I think many of them probably won't be. But the president and his team certainly take this particular issue -- I guess the president and his team take this particular Constitutional responsibility quite seriously, and the president has already begun to have conversations with senior members of his team about this process. We're at the beginning of this process, but it is one that the president and his team intend to carry out expeditiously. EARNEST: We're mindful of the fact that the president has almost another year in office, so there certainly is ample time for the United States Senate to act. But what's also true is that at least in recent history, we've not had a Supreme Court vacancy that has spanned two Supreme Court terms. So the president certainly wants to move promptly so that the United States Senate can do the same in giving his nominee a fair hearing and a timely yes or no vote. OK (inaudible). QUESTION: Thanks Josh. The vice president, today, gave an interview to Minnesota Public Radio, and -- and talked a little bit about sort of how the president is looking at his picks, and suggested that he may be going for a consensus candidate. Said the president won't pick -- these are his words -- "won't pick the most liberal jurist in the nation." He also made a point of noting that there are many judges who have had unanimous support from Republicans. Should we read into that? I mean, is that -- is -- is it -- is the president sort of moving towards a consensus pick as opposed to -- you know, one end of the spectrum or the other? EARNEST: Well, obviously, Vice President Biden has a unique perspective on this situation. He is somebody who, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the confirmation hearings of, I believe, four different Supreme Court justices. So he obviously has his own unique insight into the kind of criteria that a president can and should use when choosing a Supreme Court justice. President Obama has drawn on that expertise and that experience from Vice President Biden in announcing his nomination of both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. And I'm confident that President Obama will be interested in drawing on Vice President Biden's perspective in making this decision as well. What President Obama is focused on is choosing the best person in the United States of America to fill this job. QUESTION: Any chance (OFF-MIKE)? EARNEST: Well, again, I'm not going to get ahead of the process. I don't -- I don't know if the V.P. has signaled his interest in being considered for this job. But of course he did point out a relevant fact, which is that there are a number of senior-level judges, judges who serve on the appellate courts, who have actually gotten strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate. There is a track record that the president has of appointing people whose -- whose qualifications are beyond question. And I would expect that the president will nominate someone else -- or someone -- to the Supreme Court who has credentials that could be similarly described. OK? Kevin. QUESTION: Just one question about Gitmo. Can you give me an update on whether or not the administration plans to submit to Congress details about closing Gitmo? I believe the NDAA deadline is the 23rd. 14:02:27 EARNEST: I don't have an update for the timing of that plan. We're certainly mindful of -- of that deadline that's established in the NDAA. But as soon as we have a plan to present to Congress, we'll present it to them, and I'll make all of you get a copy of it as well. QUESTION: Would it be your suspicion that that will in fact happen? Are you -- are you predicting that it won't likely happen? EARNEST: Well, I was -- back in the summer, I was asked to predict the timing of when this report would be presented to Congress. And I was off by several months. So I have learned my lesson, and I will be -- be not -- not be making future predictions about the timing of when this report will be presented. I know that, in that intervening time -- that the Department of Defense has been working very diligently with other components of the president's national security team to put together a thoughtful, workable, sensible plan that reflects the national security interests of the United States and reflects the responsibility that the United States government has to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. So I -- I don't have an update on the timing for the plan. I know that they've made a lot of progress on this over the last few months. But when it is presented to Congress, we'll ensure that it's made public as well, so all of you will have a chance to take a look at it. OK? QUESTION: Can I follow on that real fast? EARNEST: Sure, Carol, go ahead. QUESTION: If you don't put forward the whole plan by that deadline, then will you put forward something narrower to address the provision in the NDAA? 14:03:47 EARNEST: I don't want to speculate at this point that we won't meet the deadline. But if February 23rd comes around and we haven't presented the plan, then we can talk about -- you know, what we'll try to communicate to Congress. OK? Justin. QUESTION: Speaking of an NDAA deadline that you already blew through, I wanted to ask you why -- why the administration didn't turn over a plan, as the NDAA required on Monday, for the fight against ISIS? EARNEST: Yeah. Well, I would anticipate that this is something that -- that the Department of Defense and the Department of State will be able to present to Congress shortly. Congress is on recess this week, so I know that they're working diligently to -- to complete this plan. I think the other thing that's true here, Justin, is that -- you know, the -- given the number of senior-level administration officials that have testified in public, under oath -- some of them who even testified in classified setting -- about our ongoing efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, I don't anticipate that there are a whole lot of people in Congress that are going to learn a whole lot new in that plan. QUESTION: And then I wanted to ask about (inaudible) OTM. There's a lot of layers to this, so I'm going to try to power through and... (CROSSTALK) EARNEST: OK. I'll try to do the same with an answer . QUESTION: The IG report said that, "she wasn't able to serve as acting director after she was nominated because she didn't work as a first assistant at OPM." You guys issued a statement saying, "there was long precedent saying she should be able to switch over jobs," but there was a federal court case recently that did not agree with you and said that "she wasn't a first assistant at that agency, that as soon as you nominated her for the full job she was no longer eligible to serve as acting director." I know that you are appealing that case, but because it is the current sort of ruling that you're working with, are you not concerned that sort of her actions could be as acting director would be deemed illegal in the period until she's... 14:05:50 EARNEST: I'm aware of this situation. I have not gotten the full legal analysis about why our lawyers believe it is entirely appropriate for her to continue to do the important work that she's doing at OPM. So we can try to provide you a greater understanding of our interpretation of the law, but we certainly say with a lot of confidence, not just that she has the -- cleared the legal bar to perform that work, but that she's doing an excellent job. She inherited a very difficult situation and she has gone to work rolling up her sleeves, drawing on her private sector leadership expertise to implement significant reforms at OPM. We are -- I think Democrats and Republicans alike have been impressed at the pace with which she has been able to make important progress on some really difficult issues. There's an enormous amount of work that needs to get done, and we're hopeful that essentially Congress can put this to rest and confirm her to the OPM job full time, so she can continue to do the critically important work she's doing without any distraction. OK, Isaac? QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago you were saying that, "if the Republicans didn't pass things on the President's agenda, that that was something you thought voters should have in their minds when they go to the polls in November." Do you think that's true about the -- what they do with the supreme court nomination as well, that -- if the Republicans don't have hearings or don't vote for your nominee, that's something voters should base their decision on? 14:07:37 EARNEST: Going back to the argument I made a couple weeks ago, the point that I was trying to make is that there is a lot of discussion about how there were Republicans who were harshly critical of some of the legitimately bipartisan proposals that we put forward. And my observation, was that that left Republicans in a situation where it was not clear at all exactly what they were going to do over the course of this year. Knowing that we've got Republicans in charge of the Congress and a Democrat in charge of the White House, you're going to have to act in bipartisan fashion to get anything done. If Republicans shoot down every bipartisan proposal that the President puts forward, then it puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position of having spent years urging the American people to give him the responsibility of running the United States Congress and essentially spending a year doing nothing. What I think is also true and I think this is true in the minds of the American people as well, Supreme Court nominations are a little bit different. People recognize that a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land entails a special responsibility and the other legislative agenda items that we have put forward are critically important to the country. There is no denying that reforming our criminal justice system would make a difference in the lives of thousands of Americans and could potentially do something really important to reduce the crime rate and improve our economy. The Transpacific Partnership, over the longer term, is the kind of thing that would even further strengthen the strongest and most durable economy in the world, and revolutionize the relationship that the United States has with some of the fastest growing economies in Asia. So that is important work that Congress needs to do in terms of ratifying the Transpacific Partnership. EARNEST: When it comes to the supreme court, the Senate has a constitutional responsibility and there has been an attempt, I know, as I observed yesterday, by people on all sides to try to politicize these hearings and to politicize the process. And what we're trying to do is to focus squarely on the president's Constitutional responsibility and the Senate's constitutional responsibility. And if that's what we do, I'm confident that a legislative process that is so often broken down -- been broken down by -- in dysfunction, will actually perform in a way that the American people expect. It doesn't mean we're going to have differences of opinion, I'm confident we're going to have differences of opinion. Are we going to have a spirited hearing or, you know, days of hearings? Yeah, I bet -- I'll bet that we do. Will there be some people who complain and say that they don't support the president's nominee? I'm confident that's probably going to happen too. But the real question that the American people have, the suggestion is not that we shouldn't have a debate, the question is whether or not the United States Senate is going to fulfill their basic Constitutional responsibility, and I think the American people, including those who are going to cast a vote in 2016, will be watching. QUESTION: Thank you, Josh. QUESTION: Do you think that if a senator says that there shouldn't be hearings or is opposed to the process so there aren't hearings, is that something that should be in the minds of the voters in that senator's state in November if that senator is up for re- election? EARNEST: Well, look. At this point, I'm not going to be able to predict with a lot of specificity exactly what a specific voter is going to have in mind when they go to the voting booth nine or 10 months from now. QUESTION: Would you want this to be something in their minds? EARNEST: Well, I think it's -- I think it's certainly something that's legitimate. And I think that this issue is -- again, given the stakes, is something that will get a lot of attention. And that's a good thing. This is something that should be subjected to a vigorous public debate. But look, at the end of the day, the president has a Constitutional duty, and so does the United States Senate. OK, Mark. QUESTION: Thanks Josh. QUESTION: Josh, I'm curious why President Obama was so thrilled, almost euphoric, to have received a parking pass for the United Center today. Do we expect the president to be driving himself around Chicago looking for a parking space after he leaves office? (LAUGHTER) EARNEST: That's a good question. I guess I wouldn't rule it out. We've talked a lot about how the president is -- certainly misses the opportunity that he gets to drive himself around. So he spent a little time driving around the South Lawn with Jerry Seinfeld at the end of last year and he certainly enjoyed that. 14:12:48 But I can tell you that in his post-presidency life, I think the president is eagerly anticipating spending some winter nights at the United Center watching both the Bulls and the Blackhawks. QUESTION: But he's not going to drive himself there. EARNEST: I wouldn't rule it out at this point. We'll see. Maybe he'll have a self-driving car, and so he'll be able to ride along without actually putting his hands on the wheel. QUESTION: Last question. Who did he have dinner with last night? EARNEST: The president did make an outing last night. The pool accompanied the president to BLT Restaurant just across the street here. I'm sure it was just serendipitous that a handful of New York Times reporters would be at the bar of the restaurant at 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I'm sure that hardly ever happens. Last night it did, and they saw the president walk in. The president did have dinner with some friends, many of them are people who are assisting the outside work of the foundation as it gets up and running. So there were friends -- you know, some of you tweeted about them. But there were former senior administration -- former White House officials and some others who were there. They had been meeting over the course of the day to sort of talk about some of the planning for the foundation. And when the president heard they were in town, he wanted to go over and see them. I spoke to the president about it a little bit this morning anticipating you might ask me about this and he told me that it was -- that it was almost entirely social. QUESTION: Was Morgan Freeman at the table? EARNEST: I wasn't there. I saw that other people saw him, so I think that's accurate. But I haven't seen a full list of who joined the president for dinner. All right, Toshi. QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Josh. I'd like to ask about North Korea and (inaudible) with Cuba. Clearly Cuba is a good example that the U.S. has deep and direct engagement and Iraq is also a good example. But when it comes to North Korea, the administration hasn't shown that kind of attitude despite the fact that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and is even trying to get hydrogen bomb. QUESTION: Is the administration ready to take on North Korea with that kind of deep and direct engagement? 14:15:12 EARNEST: Toshi, we're not, and the reason simply is that the North Koreans have continues to engage in repeated provocations that grossly violate their obligations. As you pointed out, they conducted a nuclear test this year that violated a range of U.N. Security Council resolutions. They conducted a launch that tested some missile technology earlier this month and those actions were roundly condemned by the international community. If North Korea is prepared to put an end to those kinds of provocative acts, come into compliance with international obligations, and make clear that they are committed to the goal of de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula; that would give North Korea the opportunity to begin to reengage with the international community. If that's something that they desire, they know precisely the path that they can take. It would give them an opportunity not just to improve their relationship with the United States but it would give them an opportunity to re-engage in the world and in the international community. It certainly would improve their economy. It would improve their relationship with South Korea. It would improve their relationship with other countries in the region like Russia and China, and even Japan and that's been our approach. Fortunately for the United States, the international community agrees with us that those are the steps that North Korea needs to take and they will continue to work with us to apply pressure to North Korea, to further isolate them, and to compel them to take the kinds of steps that will allow them to come into compliance with the international community's expectations. Andre? QUESTION: Thank you. Two things, one on Syria and two on Cuba. With Syria, we are supposed to be a part of a group of Geneva among the U.S. and Russia, who will discuss a multi-lateral format a way forward in Syria with a cease-fire. The question very simply is, why is it okay to do that in a multi-lateral format but not bilateral as the Russians keep saying? We need to do more. 14:17:45 EARNEST: Andre, we've acknowledged for a number of months now that the -- that there is an opportunity for the Russians, if they're prepared to sign on to the goals of the International Counter-ISIL Coalition, of whom there are 65 or 66 members. Their contribution to that effort would be welcomed. That is something that the Russians have resisted because of that resistance, and they have chosen to take a number of unilateral steps. We have engaged with the Russian military to the extent necessary to de-conflict our activities. But frankly, we've been disappointed both that Russia's military activities have not been effectively integrated with the International Counter-ISIL coalition, and that Russia's military activities have not been focused on ISIL but rather concentrated on propping up the Assad regime. That has resulted in more widespread bloodshed and suffering, and only serves to undermine the stated political goals of the Russian government. So that is a contradiction that the Russian government has been unable to address, and it's why that even as Russia gets deeper and deeper into the sectarian conflict, they're not actually advancing their longer term interests in the region. In the short term, they may able to help the Assad regime strengthen its hold on power but over the long term, Russia is being forced to dedicate more and more resources to trying to hold on to the only military installation that they have outside of the former soviet union. QUESTION: Given that approach, what do you really expect from the Geneva regime? 14:19:47 EARNEST: What we expect is the painstakingly slow, and difficult, and complicated diplomacy will take the next step there. And Secretary Kerry has been tenacious in trying to move this process forward. But, look, even as this process moves forward slowly, lives are being lost, and lives are being scarred, because you see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. You see more and more people forced to flee their homes to avoid violence. And, unfortunately, Russia's actions are only perpetuating that situation, and not actually coordinating with the international community to rectify it. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) will the ceasefire begin (OFF-MIKE)? EARNEST: Well, this will be the -- this will be the -- the -- part of the multi-lateral discussions that are planned for tomorrow. QUESTION: OK. And -- and on Cuba, I wanted to ask about something that Ben mentioned, that you are interested in -- Cuban cancer vaccines. And the question basically is, does it make Cuba a partner -- a potential partner in your mutual cancer initiative, and other -- are any other partners like that? EARNEST: Yeah. That's a good question. We know that -- that there are -- that the Cuban government has invested a lot in military -- in medical technology, and if our improved engagement with the Cubans would allow medical experts in the United States to deepen their engagement with medical researchers and physicians in Cuba, then that would be a really good thing. It'd be a good thing for the Cuban people. It certainly would be a good thing -- good thing for the United States, and it would be good -- a good thing for the world, in terms of trying to capitalize on what is -- what could be important gains that Cuba has made, and we can certainly leverage those gains to advance the interests of the scientific community in trying to cure diseases like cancer. QUESTION: And last thing. This moon-shot cancer thing -- how confident is the White House that you will achieve something -- that you will achieve a breakthrough or some results, meaningful results, by the end of the year? You have a very small window there. EARNEST: We do have a small window here. And what we are seeking to do is to lay the groundwork so that we can turbo-charge the process -- the progress that's been made thus far and try to shorten the distance between the progress that we're making now and the -- the ultimate goal of -- of curing cancer. And I don't anticipate that's going to happen before the end of the year, but I do anticipate that, by better focusing our attention on this goal, that we can more effectively use our resources, that we can more effectively share knowledge between the government and the variety of private-sector entities that are pursuing these efforts, and that we can lay the groundwork for the kind of breakthrough that would have a tangible impact on millions of lives. QUESTION: I've heard people speculate that you called this initiative "moon shot" because the groundwork has already been laid, like with the original moon shot -- that you are already on the brink of a major discovery -- maybe has made a major discovery -- and just wait for -- for it to be announced. EARNEST: Yeah. The -- the reason we have used that terminology is, essentially, two things. One is it reflects the scale of the ambition that the president has for confronting this. And there's no denying that, when -- when President Kennedy made this announcement -- that it was widely viewed as a very ambitious, bold, audacious move, but yet one that was achieved. We envision something similarly ambitious. The second thing is -- and this is also relevant, too -- when President Kennedy made this announcement, the goal was not realized during his presidency. It wasn't until 1969 that this goal was eventually realized. And so what we're hoping to do is to lay the groundwork in the presidency of Barack Obama so that some future president will be able to make a proud public announcement about a medical breakthrough that would lead to a cure for cancer. (CROSSTALK) EARNEST: Ron, I'll give you the last one. QUESTION: Just to clarify one thing... EARNEST: Yep. QUESTION: ... this -- this (inaudible) crunch funding -- anti-terrorism funding to New York City -- the commission there is very upset about some comments that you made that seemed to suggest that Senator Schumer's position on the Iran deal may have something to do with why this cut is happening, and that the White House is playing politics at a time when the issue should be the unique threat that New York City faces. Can you just clarify what you said about Schumer in relation to this cut, and whether there's any relationship at all? 14:24:39 EARNEST: There's no relationship at all. I -- we can walk you through the numbers that indicate that this administration has made a substantial investment in homeland security, not just for New York City that obviously has some unique challenges, but for the whole country. EARNEST: And when you take a look at the resources that have been provided to the city and state of New York over the last several years, the amount that has been unspent -- or that remains in their accounts and unspent and the new commitment that we have made in the context of this recent budget, I think our commitment to homeland security is quite clear. And so the concerns that are raised yesterday were entirely focused on our concern that if you take a look at the facts, the facts back up precisely the priority that this president has placed on homeland security and making sure that state and local officials across the country have the resources that they need to protect their communities. QUESTION: So the cuts -- is the cuts related to more unspent funds? is that what you're saying? EARNEST: No. What I'm saying is there -- we can -- we can walk you through the numbers because it's complicated, but there's $600 million in funds that have been provided by the federal government, most of them through DHS, that have been provided in previous years, that are still in the accounts maintained by the city and state of New York. Those funds continuing to available to them. So I know that there were some -- there was a suggestion that somehow there were unmet needs. The fact is there are substantial resources that continue to be available, and in the context of this budget, the administration is proposing to add another $255 million on top of that. The reason -- so that's a -- again, this is a substantial sum of money that would be dedicated to things like homeland security, resilience and other things that are critical to the well-being and safety of the people of New York. The reason the $255 million number is significant is not because that is this year's annual commitment, but if you take a look at the last two years and the way those funds have been spent, the last two years combined, city and state officials have spent, out of this collection of funds, about $125 million or $150 million. So it's not just that there are significant sums in reserve, it's that the amount of money that's being provided under this budget proposal far exceeds the expenditures that have been made in the last two years combined. And that's the point that we're making. So we've had our differences with Senator Schumer over national security, and those differences have been well chronicled, including as recently as yesterday. But what we're focused on is making sure that people understand the facts about the commitment that we have made to our homeland security and the way that we have backed up that commitment in the context of the budget process. QUESTION: Thank you. 14:27:47 EARNEST: All right. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.
ALAN GROSS STATEMENT / HD
INT BROLL FORMER CUBAN PRISONER ALAN GROSS STATEMENT NY INTERPLAY SLUG: WASH 7 ALAN GROSS STATEMENT ALAN GROSS JILL ZUCKMAN, GROSS FAMILY SPOKESWOMAN ZUCKMAN 135024 Hi everyone thanks for being here today. Alan's going to be out in a few minutes to talk to you all but I wanted to just give you a little bit of background about what led up to today. Alan found out yesterday morning that he was going to be released from his lawyer Scott Gilbert. Scott told Alan on the phone, he was, there was a long silent pause and then Alan said "I'll believe it when I see it." The plane this morning rom Andrews took 5105 Judy Gross, Alan's wife, Scott Gilbert, along with Senators Lakey and Flake and Congressman Van Hollen down to Havana. They landed, they found Alan there, they were on the ground for about half an hour when they got back up on the plane there was a big bowl of popcorn waiting for Alan because that was one of the things he said he had missed 5137 during the last five years that he was in prison. He also got a corn beef sandwich on rye with mustard, that was waiting for him and they had latkes with applesauce and sour cream there too, so that was a nice Hanukkah present. 5158 Around 8:45 this morning the pilot announced that they had left Cuban airspace and were entering into US airspace and Alan stood up on the plane and took a deep breath at that moment. While he was on the plane he called both of his daughters, Shira who is in Tel Aviv and Nina who is in Oregon and the first words he said to them both were I'm free. 5227 President Obama called Alan while he was on the plane coming back to Washington. He congratulated him on his freedom and Alan thanked him for getting him out of prison. It was a very friendly conversation as you can imagine. When the plane landed at Andrews there were a number of members of Congress waiting to greet him. 5257 Senators Durbin, McLusky, Levin, and Cardin. As well as Congressmen McGovern, my coincidence, Sec. of State John Kerry's plane was landing at Andrews not long after Alan's and he came from his plane over to the building where Alan was visiting with members of congress and sec. Kerry gave him a big hug, they talked for a while and then 5335 right at about noon when the president began speaking the two of them sat down next to each other on a couch and watched President Obama's address together. So after the address Sec. Kerry left, Alan is now here with his wife Judy and I'm going to go get them and they'll be back here in about 5 minutes. 5400 I just want to caution you all, he-0-while he was in prison he's had a number of health issues, recently his teeth have been breaking, so he's lost about 5 teeth recently at the front of his mouth. Once we're done with this he's going to take some time to work on his health, hopefully work on his teeth and see some doctors. He's not going to be doing any interviews right away, I know there's lots of demand out there and I hope 5433 you all will appreciate that he's going to want to spend some time with his family and working to regain his health. So with that I'm going to go get Alan and he will be back here in five minutes. ALAN GROSS 135929 This is great. 5944 I have to say [?] and happy holiday season to all of you. Today is the first day of Hanukkah, and I guess so far it's the best Hanukkah that I'll be celebrating for a long time. What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country and thank you, president Obama, for everything that you have done today and leading up to today. I want to acknowledge the extraordinary determined efforts of my wife, Judy. 44 1/2 years we've been married. 140023 I know you're not 44 1/2 anymore and my lawyer and personal Moses, Scott Gilbert. 0036 And their efforts to restore my freedom. They have my endless gratitude, love and respect. The relentless and often intense efforts by Judy and Scott, the partners and associates and staff of Gilbert llp law firm, that's where we are right now, they made me take the jacket off. I didn't want to take it off but they said I had to take it off. 0101 Tim [?] from capitol hill, Jill Zuckman of SKDKnickerbocker have been inconceivable, their efforts have been in inconceivable. Senator Patrick Leahy, who has been instrumental in shepherding the arrival of this day and I want to thank all of the members of congress from all sides of the aisle such as senator flake, Representatives Kristin, Harland, and Barbara Lee and numerous others who spoke up or visited me, subjected themselves to my ranting and helped me regain some of my weight. 0141 Even in Cuba, M & Ms melts in your mouth and not in your hands. To all of those who tried to visit me but were unable to, thank you for trying. I am at your service as soon as I get some new teeth and I hope that they'll be strong and sharp enough to make a difference. 0201 To the Washington Jewish community, Ron Halber in particular and his staff at the Jewish community relations council, JCRC, all of the executive directors, staff and volunteers of participating JCRCs, federations, synagogues, schools and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations nationwide, god bless you and thank you. 0226 It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten. Your prayers and your actions have been comforting, reassuring and sustaining. And to my extended family, especially my sister, Bonnie, my cousins and friends, Howard, Bruce, our Shabbat group, Yoni, and Larry, and so many others who exemplify the true meaning of friendship. Thank you. 0256 I do understand that there are many others who actively participated in securing my freedom of whom I'm only nominally aware at this juncture. I promise I will express a more personal gratitude just as soon as I know who you are. Ultimately the decision to arrange for and secure my release was made in the oval office. 0323 To president Obama and the NSD staff, thank you. In my last letter to President Obama I wrote that despite my five-year tenure in captivity, I would not want to trade places with him and I certainly wouldn't want to trade policies with him on this glorious day. Five years of isolation notwithstanding, I did not need daily briefings to be cognizant of what are undoubtedly incredible challenges facing our nation and the global community. 0358 I also feel compelled to share with you my utmost respect for and fondness of the people of Cuba. In no way are they responsible for the ordeal to which my family and I have been subjected. To me, Cubanos, or at least most of them are incredibly kind, generous and talented. It pains me to see them treated so unjustly as a consequence of two governments mutually belligerent policies. Five and a half decades of history shows that such belligerents inhibits better judgment. 0441 Two wrongs never make a right. I truly hope we can get beyond these mutually belligerent policies and I was very happy to hear what the president had to say today. It was particularly cool to be setting next to the secretary of state as he was hearing about his job description for the next couple of months. In all seriousness, this is game changer. 0507 Which I fully support. In the meantime, I ask that you respect my wishes for complete and total privacy. Claro? A judicious lesson that I learned from this is that freedom is not free and as personified by Scott and our entire team, we must never forget the two pillars of Moses covenant, freedom and responsibility. 0541 I'm incredibly blessed finally to have the freedom to resume a positive and constructive life but for now I'll close with a quote from one of Nelson DeMille's characters. "It's good to be home." Thank you and I wish you all a happy holiday season. Thank you. 0602 What are your wishes for US Cuban relations now Alan? 0611 I support the president. Thank you very much. Happy Hanukkah. Obama hails 'new chapter' in US-Cuba ties Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. President Obama: "Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past" US President Barack Obama has hailed a "new chapter" in US relations with Cuba, announcing moves to normalise diplomatic and economic ties. Mr Obama said the US' current approach was "outdated" and the changes were the "most significant" in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years. Cuban President Raul Castro said he welcomed the shift in a TV address. The move includes the release of US contractor Alan Gross and three Cubans held in the US. Wednesday's announcement follows more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving the Pope. The US is looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months, Mr Obama said. The plans set out in a White House statement also include: Reviewing the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism Easing a travel ban for US citizens Easing financial restrictions Increasing telecommunications links Efforts to lift the 54-year-old trade embargo Mr Castro said the changes were something Cuba had been pressing for for a long time. "Ever since my election... I have reiterated on many occasions our preparedness to hold a respectful dialogue with the government of the United States based on sovereign equality," he said. President Castro urged Washington to lift a trade and economic embargo imposed on the communist-run island - a move that can only be made by Congress. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has criticised the new US policy, saying it would do nothing to address the issues of Cuba's political system and human rights record.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SPEAKS AT SIGNING OF NEW CUBA POLICY CUTS
President Trump gives remarks and participates in a signing on the United States' policy toward Cuba DC SLUG: 1230 WH MIAMI FL PATH1 FS33 73 NYRS: WASH-3 1415 WH MIAMI FL CUTS FS33 73 TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. It's a great honor. And thank you to my truly great friend Vice President Mike Pence. He's terrific. (APPLAUSE) And thank you to Miami. 13;31;27 TRUMP: We love Miami. (APPLAUSE) Let me start by saying that I am glad Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I, along with a very talented team, were able to get Otto Warmbier back with his parents. (APPLAUSE) What's happened to him is a truly terrible thing, but at least the ones who love him so much can now take care of him and be with him. Also, my dear friend Steve Scalise took a bullet for all of us. Because of him and the tremendous pain and suffering he's now enduring -- and he's having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought -- our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important. So we all owe Steve a big, big thank you. (APPLAUSE) Let's keep the Warmbier family and the Scalise family and all of the victims of the congressional shooting in our hearts and prayers. And it was quite a day, and our police officers were incredible, weren't they? They did a great job. Good job. (APPLAUSE) And let us all pray for a future peace, unity and safety for all of our people. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) And for Cuba, I am so thrilled to be back here with all of my friends in Little Havana. (APPLAUSE) 13:33:45 I love it. I love this city. And one of the big -- thank you, thank you. This is an amazing community. The Cuban-American community, there's so much love. I saw that immediately. CROWD: We love you! TRUMP: Thank you, darling. Oh, do I love you too. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) What you've built here, a vibrant culture, a thriving neighborhood, the spirit of adventure is a testament to what a free Cuba could be, and with God's help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve. (APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA! 13:35:03 TRUMP: And I don't even mind that it's 110 degrees up here. (LAUGHTER) This room is packed. TRUMP: You know, it wasn't designed for this. I'd like to thank the fire department. (LAUGHTER) We are delighted to be joined by so many friends and leaders of our great community. I want to express our deep gratitude to a man that's really become a friend of mine -- and I want to tell you, he is one tough competitor -- Senator Marco Rubio. (APPLAUSE) Great job. He is tough. Man! (APPLAUSE) He is tough, and he's good and he loves you. He loves you. And I listen to another friend of mine, Congressman Mario Diaz- Balart. (APPLAUSE) And I'll tell you, I loved what he said and I appreciate it. Mario, I appreciated what you said so much. (APPLAUSE) In fact, I was looking for Mario. I wanted to find him. They said he was on stage, I almost dragged him off the stage to thank him but now I'm thanking you anyway. Thank you, Mario. That's great. Really appreciate it. And I also want to thank my good friend and -- just a man who was of tremendous support in the state of Florida, for being with us, Governor Rick Scott. (APPLAUSE) Great job. He's doing a great job. Oh, I hope he runs for the Senate. I know I'm not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. (APPLAUSE) Rick, are you running? Huh? Huh? I don't know, Marco. We've got to him to -- I hope he runs for the Senate. We're deeply honored to be joined by amazing veterans of the Bay of Pigs. (APPLAUSE) These are great people. Amazing people. (APPLAUSE) I have wonderful memories from our visit during the campaign. That was some visit. That was right before the election. I guess it worked, right? Boy. Florida, as a whole, and this community that supported us like -- by tremendous margins and we appreciate it. But including, one of the big honors, and that was the honor of getting the Bay of Pigs award just before the election. And it's great to be gathered in a place named for a true hero of the Cuban people, and you know what that means. (APPLAUSE) 13:38:25 I was also looking forward to welcoming today two people who are not present. Jose Daniel Ferrer and Berta Soler... (APPLAUSE) ... were both prevented from leaving Cuba for this event. So we acknowledge them. They're great friends, great help. And, although they could not be with us, we are with them 100 percent, OK? We are with them, right? (APPLAUSE) Finally I want to recognize everyone in the audience who has their own painful but important story to tell about the true and brutal nature of the Castro regime -- brutal. We thank the dissidents, the exiles and the children of Operation Peter Pan -- you know what that means. (APPLAUSE) And all who gather in the cafes, churches and the streets of this incredible area and city to speak the truth and to stand for justice. (APPLAUSE) And we want to thank you all for being a voice for the voiceless. There are people -- it's voiceless, but you are making up the difference, and we all want to thank you. This group is amazing. TRUMP: Just an incredible -- you are an incredible... 13:42:10 (UNKNOWN): Thank you! TRUMP: ...group of talented passionate people. Thank you. Incredible group of people. Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology. You saw the dreams of generations held by captive and just literally you look at what happened and what communism has done. You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God. You watched the women in white bruised, bloodied and captured on their way from mass. You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze. Not a good sound. Among the courageous Cuban dissidents with us on stage here today, are Cary Roque (ph), who was imprisoned by the Castro regime 15 years ago. (APPLAUSE) She looks awfully good. (UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Marco Rubio. (Inaudible). Thank you to all the men (ph) and Cubans who fight, no matter what the times can be for the Cuban people (ph) (inaudible). Mr. President, on behalf of the Cuban people, the people inside my (inaudible), my homeland, thank you. Thank you, and we appreciate your love. (APPLAUSE) 13:42:19 TRUMP: Wow. That's pretty good. She didn't know she was going to do that either, I will tell you. Thank you very much. Antunes (ph), imprisoned for 17 years. Where is he? (APPLAUSE) I love that name, Antunes (ph). I love that name. And Angel Defana (ph), imprisoned for over 20 years. (APPLAUSE) Thank you, thank you. Very brave people. The exiles and dissidents here today have witnessed communism destroy a nation just as communism has destroyed every single nation where it has ever been tried. (APPLAUSE) But we will not be silenced in the face of communist oppression any longer. You have seen the truth, you have spoken the truth and the truth has now called us. This group called us to action. Thank you. Last year, I promised to be a voice against repression in our region. Remember, tremendous repression -- and to voice for the freedom of the Cuban people. You heard that pledge. TRUMP: You exercised the right you have to vote. You went out and you voted, and here I am like I promised, like I promised. (APPLAUSE) 13:45:02 I promise you, I keep my promises. Sometimes, in politics they take a little bit longer, but we get there. We get there. Don't we get there? You better believe it, Mile (ph). We get there. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. Thank you. No, we keep our promise. And now that I am your president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams. (APPLAUSE) 13:46:12 For nearly six decades, the Cuban people have suffered under communist domination. To this day, Cuba is ruled by the same people who killed tens of thousands of their own citizens, who sought to spread their repressive and failed ideology throughout our hemisphere and who once tried to host enemy nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores. The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela. While imprisoning innocents, it has harbored cop killers, hijackers and terrorists. It has supported human trafficking, forced labor and exploitation all around the globe. This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. My administration will not hide from it, excuse it or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it it. We know what's going on and we remember what happened. (APPLAUSE) On my recent trip overseas, I said that the United States is adopting a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests and common sense. I also said countries should take greater responsibility for creating stability in their own regions. It's hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration's terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime. (APPLAUSE) Well, you have to say the Iran deal was pretty bad also, at all (inaudible). Let's not forget that beauty. (LAUGHTER) They made a deal with a government that spreads violence and instability in the region, and nothing they got -- thank you -- nothing they got -- they fought for everything, and we just didn't fight hard enough, but now those days are over. Now, we hold the cards. We now hold the cards. The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime. (APPLAUSE) The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military. The regime takes the money and owns the industry. The outcome of the last administration's executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful democratic movement. TRUMP: Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba. (APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: Trump! Trump! Trump! 13:50:24 TRUMP: I am announcing today a new policy just as I promised during the campaign. And I will be signing that contract right at that table in just a moment. (APPLAUSE) Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America. We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba. (APPLAUSE) Our new policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law. (APPLAUSE) We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly... (APPLAUSE) ...and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized... (APPLAUSE) ...and free and internationally supervised elections... (APPLAUSE) ...are scheduled. Elections. 13:51:53 We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security, and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime. They will be restricted. (APPLAUSE) We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's great, great future, a country of great potential. (APPLAUSE) My action today bypasses the military and the government to help the Cuban people themselves form businesses and pursue much better lives. 13:53:03 We will keep in place the safeguards to prevent Cubans from risking their lives to unlawful travel to the United States. They are in such danger the way they have to come to this country. And we are going to be safeguarding those people. We have to. We have no choice. We have to. (APPLAUSE) And we will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this long reign of suffering to an end. TRUMP: And I do believe that end is in the very near future. (APPLAUSE) We challenge Cuba to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interest of both their people and our people, and also of Cuban Americans. (APPLAUSE) To the Cuban government, I say put an end to the abuse of dissidence, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including... (APPLAUSE) ...the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. (APPLAUSE) 13:54:45 And finally, hand over the Cuban military criminals who shot down and killed four brave members of Brothers to the Rescue who were in unarmed, small, slow civilian planes. (APPLAUSE) Those victims included Mario de la Pena Jr. and Carlos Costa. We are honored to be joined today Mario's parents, Miriam (ph) and Mario (ph) and Carlo's sister, Mirta (ph). Where are you? (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Those are great -- those are great, great parents who love their children so much. What they've done is just an incredible -- incredible thing. What they represent -- they did not die in vain. What they represent to everybody and especially to the Cuban. Your children did not die in vain, believe me. (APPLAUSE) 13:56:28 So, to the Castro regime, I repeat, the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end. (APPLAUSE) Any changes to the relationship between the United States and Cuba will depend on real progress toward these and the other goals, many of which I've described. When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps, to these ends, we will be ready, willing and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better for Cubans, for Americans -- much better deal. And a deal that's fair, a deal that's fair, and a deal that makes sense. (APPLAUSE) Our embassy remains open in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path. America believes that free, independent and sovereign nations are the best vehicle for human happiness, for health, for education, for safety, for everything. We all accept that all nations have the right to char their own paths, and I'm certainly a very big believer in that. So we will respect Cuban sovereignty, but we will never turn our backs on the Cuban people, that will not happen. (APPLAUSE) 13:58:09 Over the years a special sympathy has grown between this land of the free and the beautiful people of that island so close to our shores and so deeply woven into the history of our region. America has rejected the Cuban people's oppressors. They are rejected. Officially today, they are rejected. (APPLAUSE) And to those people America has become a source of strength, and our flag, a symbol of hope. I know that is exactly what America is to you, and what it represents to you. It represent the same to me. It represents the same to all of us. And that is what it was to a little boy, Luis Haza. You ever hear of Luis? He became very famous, great talent. Just eight years old when Fidel Castro seized power. At the time, Luis' father was the police chief in Santiago de Cuba. You know Santiago, yeah? Oh they know Santiago. Just days after Fidel took control, his father was one of 71 Cubans executed by firing squad near San Juan Hill at the hands of the Castro regime. Luis buried his grief in his great love of music. He began playing the violin so brilliantly and so beautifully. Soon the regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes. TRUMP: When he was 12 they organized a national television special and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro, who by the way, is leaving now. I wonder why? (APPLAUSE) They sent an official to fetch Luis from his home, but Luis, he refused to go, and a few days later, Castro's soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area guns blazing. They told him to play for them. Terrified, Luis began to play, and the entire room was stunned by what they heard. Ringing out from the trembling boy's violin was a tune they all recognized. This young Cuban boy was playing The Star- Spangled Banner. (APPLAUSE) 14:01:28 Luis played the American national anthem all the way through, and when he finished, the room was dead silent. When we say that America stands as a symbol to the world, a symbol of freedom and a symbol of hope, that is what Luis meant and that is what Luis displayed that day. It was a big day, it was a great day and that is what we will all remain. That was a very important moment, just like this is now for Cuba a very important moment. (APPLAUSE) America will always stand for liberty, and America will always pray and cheer for the freedom of the Cuban people. 14:02:29 Now that little boy, whose story I just told you, the one who played that violin so beautifully so many years ago, is here with us today in our very, very packed and extremely warm auditorium (ph). (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Of course, he is no longer a little boy, but a world-renowned violinist and conductor, one of the greats. And today, he will once again play his violin and fill the hearts of all who love and cherish Cuba, the United States and freedom. (APPLAUSE) I would like now to invite Luis to the stage -- Luis. (APPLAUSE) 14:03:43 (MUSIC PRESENTATION) (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Thank you, Luis. I just said, "So where were you more nervous, today or then?" He said, "Honestly, I think today." That's pretty -- thank you, Luis (ph). That was beautiful. 14:05:11 So I want to thank Miami. I want to thank Little Havana. Havana, we love -- do we love it? Would you move anywhere else? You wouldn't move to Palm Beach, would you? No. No way. Little Havana. And I want to thank all of our great friends here today. You've been amazing, loyal, beautiful people. And thank you. Don't remind me. (APPLAUSE) Actually, I was telling Mike -- so it was two days -- on my birthday -- until a big day, which turned out to be tomorrow. The 16th -- that was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower. That's tomorrow. (APPLAUSE) So it's exactly, tomorrow, two years since we announced, and it worked out OK. Worked out OK. It's a great honor. Believe me, it's a great honor. Right? Thank you. Thank you very much. I just want to end by saying, may God bless everyone searching for freedom. May God bless Cuba. May God bless the United States of America, and God bless you all. Thank you. 14:07:02 Now I'm going to sign. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) END
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SPEAKS AT SIGNING OF NEW CUBA POLICY
Friday, June 16, 2017 President Trump gives remarks and participates in a signing on the United States' policy toward Cuba DC SLUG: 1230 WH MIAMI FL PATH1 FS33 73 NYRS: WASH-3 [*] TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. It's a great honor. And thank you to my truly great friend Vice President Mike Pence. He's terrific. (APPLAUSE) And thank you to Miami. 13;31;27 TRUMP: We love Miami. (APPLAUSE) Let me start by saying that I am glad Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I, along with a very talented team, were able to get Otto Warmbier back with his parents. (APPLAUSE) What's happened to him is a truly terrible thing, but at least the ones who love him so much can now take care of him and be with him. Also, my dear friend Steve Scalise took a bullet for all of us. Because of him and the tremendous pain and suffering he's now enduring -- and he's having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought -- our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important. So we all owe Steve a big, big thank you. (APPLAUSE) Let's keep the Warmbier family and the Scalise family and all of the victims of the congressional shooting in our hearts and prayers. And it was quite a day, and our police officers were incredible, weren't they? They did a great job. Good job. (APPLAUSE) And let us all pray for a future peace, unity and safety for all of our people. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) And for Cuba, I am so thrilled to be back here with all of my friends in Little Havana. (APPLAUSE) 13:33:45 I love it. I love this city. And one of the big -- thank you, thank you. This is an amazing community. The Cuban-American community, there's so much love. I saw that immediately. CROWD: We love you! TRUMP: Thank you, darling. Oh, do I love you too. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) What you've built here, a vibrant culture, a thriving neighborhood, the spirit of adventure is a testament to what a free Cuba could be, and with God's help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve. (APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA! 13:35:03 TRUMP: And I don't even mind that it's 110 degrees up here. (LAUGHTER) This room is packed. TRUMP: You know, it wasn't designed for this. I'd like to thank the fire department. (LAUGHTER) We are delighted to be joined by so many friends and leaders of our great community. I want to express our deep gratitude to a man that's really become a friend of mine -- and I want to tell you, he is one tough competitor -- Senator Marco Rubio. (APPLAUSE) Great job. He is tough. Man! (APPLAUSE) He is tough, and he's good and he loves you. He loves you. And I listen to another friend of mine, Congressman Mario Diaz- Balart. (APPLAUSE) And I'll tell you, I loved what he said and I appreciate it. Mario, I appreciated what you said so much. (APPLAUSE) In fact, I was looking for Mario. I wanted to find him. They said he was on stage, I almost dragged him off the stage to thank him but now I'm thanking you anyway. Thank you, Mario. That's great. Really appreciate it. And I also want to thank my good friend and -- just a man who was of tremendous support in the state of Florida, for being with us, Governor Rick Scott. (APPLAUSE) Great job. He's doing a great job. Oh, I hope he runs for the Senate. I know I'm not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. (APPLAUSE) Rick, are you running? Huh? Huh? I don't know, Marco. We've got to him to -- I hope he runs for the Senate. We're deeply honored to be joined by amazing veterans of the Bay of Pigs. (APPLAUSE) These are great people. Amazing people. (APPLAUSE) I have wonderful memories from our visit during the campaign. That was some visit. That was right before the election. I guess it worked, right? Boy. Florida, as a whole, and this community that supported us like -- by tremendous margins and we appreciate it. But including, one of the big honors, and that was the honor of getting the Bay of Pigs award just before the election. And it's great to be gathered in a place named for a true hero of the Cuban people, and you know what that means. (APPLAUSE) 13:38:25 I was also looking forward to welcoming today two people who are not present. Jose Daniel Ferrer and Berta Soler... (APPLAUSE) ... were both prevented from leaving Cuba for this event. So we acknowledge them. They're great friends, great help. And, although they could not be with us, we are with them 100 percent, OK? We are with them, right? (APPLAUSE) Finally I want to recognize everyone in the audience who has their own painful but important story to tell about the true and brutal nature of the Castro regime -- brutal. We thank the dissidents, the exiles and the children of Operation Peter Pan -- you know what that means. (APPLAUSE) And all who gather in the cafes, churches and the streets of this incredible area and city to speak the truth and to stand for justice. (APPLAUSE) And we want to thank you all for being a voice for the voiceless. There are people -- it's voiceless, but you are making up the difference, and we all want to thank you. This group is amazing. TRUMP: Just an incredible -- you are an incredible... 13:42:10 (UNKNOWN): Thank you! TRUMP: ...group of talented passionate people. Thank you. Incredible group of people. Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology. You saw the dreams of generations held by captive and just literally you look at what happened and what communism has done. You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God. You watched the women in white bruised, bloodied and captured on their way from mass. You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze. Not a good sound. Among the courageous Cuban dissidents with us on stage here today, are Cary Roque (ph), who was imprisoned by the Castro regime 15 years ago. (APPLAUSE) She looks awfully good. (UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Marco Rubio. (Inaudible). Thank you to all the men (ph) and Cubans who fight, no matter what the times can be for the Cuban people (ph) (inaudible). Mr. President, on behalf of the Cuban people, the people inside my (inaudible), my homeland, thank you. Thank you, and we appreciate your love. (APPLAUSE) 13:42:19 TRUMP: Wow. That's pretty good. She didn't know she was going to do that either, I will tell you. Thank you very much. Antunes (ph), imprisoned for 17 years. Where is he? (APPLAUSE) I love that name, Antunes (ph). I love that name. And Angel Defana (ph), imprisoned for over 20 years. (APPLAUSE) Thank you, thank you. Very brave people. The exiles and dissidents here today have witnessed communism destroy a nation just as communism has destroyed every single nation where it has ever been tried. (APPLAUSE) But we will not be silenced in the face of communist oppression any longer. You have seen the truth, you have spoken the truth and the truth has now called us. This group called us to action. Thank you. Last year, I promised to be a voice against repression in our region. Remember, tremendous repression -- and to voice for the freedom of the Cuban people. You heard that pledge. TRUMP: You exercised the right you have to vote. You went out and you voted, and here I am like I promised, like I promised. (APPLAUSE) 13:45:02 I promise you, I keep my promises. Sometimes, in politics they take a little bit longer, but we get there. We get there. Don't we get there? You better believe it, Mile (ph). We get there. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. Thank you. No, we keep our promise. And now that I am your president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams. (APPLAUSE) 13:46:12 For nearly six decades, the Cuban people have suffered under communist domination. To this day, Cuba is ruled by the same people who killed tens of thousands of their own citizens, who sought to spread their repressive and failed ideology throughout our hemisphere and who once tried to host enemy nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores. The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela. While imprisoning innocents, it has harbored cop killers, hijackers and terrorists. It has supported human trafficking, forced labor and exploitation all around the globe. This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. My administration will not hide from it, excuse it or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it it. We know what's going on and we remember what happened. (APPLAUSE) On my recent trip overseas, I said that the United States is adopting a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests and common sense. I also said countries should take greater responsibility for creating stability in their own regions. It's hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration's terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime. (APPLAUSE) Well, you have to say the Iran deal was pretty bad also, at all (inaudible). Let's not forget that beauty. (LAUGHTER) They made a deal with a government that spreads violence and instability in the region, and nothing they got -- thank you -- nothing they got -- they fought for everything, and we just didn't fight hard enough, but now those days are over. Now, we hold the cards. We now hold the cards. The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime. (APPLAUSE) The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military. The regime takes the money and owns the industry. The outcome of the last administration's executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful democratic movement. TRUMP: Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba. (APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: Trump! Trump! Trump! 13:50:24 TRUMP: I am announcing today a new policy just as I promised during the campaign. And I will be signing that contract right at that table in just a moment. (APPLAUSE) Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America. We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba. (APPLAUSE) Our new policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law. (APPLAUSE) We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly... (APPLAUSE) ...and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized... (APPLAUSE) ...and free and internationally supervised elections... (APPLAUSE) ...are scheduled. Elections. 13:51:53 We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security, and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime. They will be restricted. (APPLAUSE) We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's great, great future, a country of great potential. (APPLAUSE) My action today bypasses the military and the government to help the Cuban people themselves form businesses and pursue much better lives. 13:53:03 We will keep in place the safeguards to prevent Cubans from risking their lives to unlawful travel to the United States. They are in such danger the way they have to come to this country. And we are going to be safeguarding those people. We have to. We have no choice. We have to. (APPLAUSE) And we will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this long reign of suffering to an end. TRUMP: And I do believe that end is in the very near future. (APPLAUSE) We challenge Cuba to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interest of both their people and our people, and also of Cuban Americans. (APPLAUSE) To the Cuban government, I say put an end to the abuse of dissidence, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including... (APPLAUSE) ...the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. (APPLAUSE) 13:54:45 And finally, hand over the Cuban military criminals who shot down and killed four brave members of Brothers to the Rescue who were in unarmed, small, slow civilian planes. (APPLAUSE) Those victims included Mario de la Pena Jr. and Carlos Costa. We are honored to be joined today Mario's parents, Miriam (ph) and Mario (ph) and Carlo's sister, Mirta (ph). Where are you? (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Those are great -- those are great, great parents who love their children so much. What they've done is just an incredible -- incredible thing. What they represent -- they did not die in vain. What they represent to everybody and especially to the Cuban. Your children did not die in vain, believe me. (APPLAUSE) 13:56:28 So, to the Castro regime, I repeat, the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end. (APPLAUSE) Any changes to the relationship between the United States and Cuba will depend on real progress toward these and the other goals, many of which I've described. When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps, to these ends, we will be ready, willing and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better for Cubans, for Americans -- much better deal. And a deal that's fair, a deal that's fair, and a deal that makes sense. (APPLAUSE) Our embassy remains open in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path. America believes that free, independent and sovereign nations are the best vehicle for human happiness, for health, for education, for safety, for everything. We all accept that all nations have the right to char their own paths, and I'm certainly a very big believer in that. So we will respect Cuban sovereignty, but we will never turn our backs on the Cuban people, that will not happen. (APPLAUSE) 13:58:09 Over the years a special sympathy has grown between this land of the free and the beautiful people of that island so close to our shores and so deeply woven into the history of our region. America has rejected the Cuban people's oppressors. They are rejected. Officially today, they are rejected. (APPLAUSE) And to those people America has become a source of strength, and our flag, a symbol of hope. I know that is exactly what America is to you, and what it represents to you. It represent the same to me. It represents the same to all of us. And that is what it was to a little boy, Luis Haza. You ever hear of Luis? He became very famous, great talent. Just eight years old when Fidel Castro seized power. At the time, Luis' father was the police chief in Santiago de Cuba. You know Santiago, yeah? Oh they know Santiago. Just days after Fidel took control, his father was one of 71 Cubans executed by firing squad near San Juan Hill at the hands of the Castro regime. Luis buried his grief in his great love of music. He began playing the violin so brilliantly and so beautifully. Soon the regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes. TRUMP: When he was 12 they organized a national television special and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro, who by the way, is leaving now. I wonder why? (APPLAUSE) They sent an official to fetch Luis from his home, but Luis, he refused to go, and a few days later, Castro's soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area guns blazing. They told him to play for them. Terrified, Luis began to play, and the entire room was stunned by what they heard. Ringing out from the trembling boy's violin was a tune they all recognized. This young Cuban boy was playing The Star- Spangled Banner. (APPLAUSE) 14:01:28 Luis played the American national anthem all the way through, and when he finished, the room was dead silent. When we say that America stands as a symbol to the world, a symbol of freedom and a symbol of hope, that is what Luis meant and that is what Luis displayed that day. It was a big day, it was a great day and that is what we will all remain. That was a very important moment, just like this is now for Cuba a very important moment. (APPLAUSE) America will always stand for liberty, and America will always pray and cheer for the freedom of the Cuban people. 14:02:29 Now that little boy, whose story I just told you, the one who played that violin so beautifully so many years ago, is here with us today in our very, very packed and extremely warm auditorium (ph). (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Of course, he is no longer a little boy, but a world-renowned violinist and conductor, one of the greats. And today, he will once again play his violin and fill the hearts of all who love and cherish Cuba, the United States and freedom. (APPLAUSE) I would like now to invite Luis to the stage -- Luis. (APPLAUSE) 14:03:43 (MUSIC PRESENTATION) (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Thank you, Luis. I just said, "So where were you more nervous, today or then?" He said, "Honestly, I think today." That's pretty -- thank you, Luis (ph). That was beautiful. 14:05:11 So I want to thank Miami. I want to thank Little Havana. Havana, we love -- do we love it? Would you move anywhere else? You wouldn't move to Palm Beach, would you? No. No way. Little Havana. And I want to thank all of our great friends here today. You've been amazing, loyal, beautiful people. And thank you. Don't remind me. (APPLAUSE) Actually, I was telling Mike -- so it was two days -- on my birthday -- until a big day, which turned out to be tomorrow. The 16th -- that was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower. That's tomorrow. (APPLAUSE) So it's exactly, tomorrow, two years since we announced, and it worked out OK. Worked out OK. It's a great honor. Believe me, it's a great honor. Right? Thank you. Thank you very much. I just want to end by saying, may God bless everyone searching for freedom. May God bless Cuba. May God bless the United States of America, and God bless you all. Thank you. 14:07:02 Now I'm going to sign. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) END
WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING FROM PANAMA - STIX
Friday, April 10, 2015 White House briefing with Press Sec. Josh Earnest, Ben Rhodes, and Ricardo Zuniga SLUG: 1230 WH PANAMA PATH1 RS33 73 & 1230 WH PANAMA PATH2 RS34 74 DISC# 768/795 & 767/796 NYRS: WASH-3/4523 & WASH-4/4524 12:46:05 MR. EARNEST: Good morning, everybody. It's nice to see you all. Some of you feel very far away. Let me do two quick things at the top and then we'll go straight to questions. The first is, earlier today the President had been briefed on the spring storms that hit the Midwestern United States late in the day yesterday and early this morning. In particular, our thoughts are prayers are with the people of Rochelle, Illinois and other communities in the Midwest that have been affected by these spring storms. FEMA already has personnel in the region who are prepared to support the ongoing response that being's led by local officials. FEMA has personnel that has an expertise in handling these kinds of events. And we expect that, again, unfortunately this spring they'll have the opportunity to put that expertise to good work to meeting the needs of the people and local communities there. The President has asked for regular updates on this ongoing response, and we're certainly going to ensure that we've got the federal supplies and resources that are necessary to support ongoing local efforts. 12:47:14 The second thing that I want to call to your attention that many of you have already reported on today is that later today the President will participate in a ceremony alongside executives from Copa Airlines and Boeing, as well as Panamanian President Varela at a signing of an agreement between Boeing and Copa about the purchase of those Boeing aircraft. The deal, as many of you have already reported, is a $6.6 billion deal involving 61 different aircraft. This is actually the largest commercial aviation deal in Latin America. Importantly, in the mind of President Obama, this will support 40,000 jobs back home, because we're not just talking about manufacturing at Boeing facilities; we're talking about engines that are made by GE, and medium-sized and even small businesses that are involved in this deal up and down the supply chain. This is good news and it's a good reminder of how important opening up overseas markets to American businesses is a critical part of the U.S. economy and is going to be critically important to continuing to strengthen our ongoing economic recovery. Panama is a place where we've seen important growth since President Obama took office. In just the last five years, exports to Panama have increased 70 percent. And again, this is indicative of the President's view that opening up overseas markets to American goods and services can be very beneficial to our economy and can be important to creating good middle-class jobs. So with all of that, why don't we go to your questions, and I'll call on people. And I anticipate many of your questions will be for Ben, so I'll let him step in and answer the foreign policy questions you may have. But if there are any on other topics, we can take those too. So, Jim, do you want to get us started? Q Thanks, Josh. Ben, I wondered if you could bring us up to speed on kind of latest developments with Cuba. Has the President reviewed the State Department recommendation on removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror? And can you give us a readout of Wednesday's phone call that the White House confirmed today? 12:49:26 MR. RHODES: Thanks, Jim. So, first of all, with respect to the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, the President initiated this review of Cuba's presence on the list as a part of the announcements he made on December 17th. I think we have been very transparent about the process. What has taken place now is complete in terms of the State Department's work. That review and recommendation is then passed for consideration to other members of the President's national security team so that they can review the contents of the State Department's work. And then, when that is complete, a final decision and recommendation will be made to the President, and he will make a determination about what action to take. So we're not all the way through that process, but the review is complete. This has gone to other members of the President's national security team for their consideration. And then a final recommendation will be forwarded to the President, and we will keep you updated as that process goes forward. With respect to the phone call between President Obama and President Castro, they spoke on Wednesday in advance of the summit. I think they understood that this is obviously a very unique occurrence in the Americas -- the first Summit of the Americas that Cuba is participating in, and that also our two governments are in a process of discussions about many aspects of our relationship, including the establishment of formal diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies. And they understood as well that their foreign ministers -- Secretary Kerry and the Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, of Cuba -- would be meeting yesterday. So they were able to review the status of our efforts to complete the work of establishing those formal diplomatic relations, and also what the various issues were that were going to be addressed here at the summit. Q Can you talk a little bit about that discussion that Kerry had with Foreign Minister Rodriguez last night? It's been described as a lengthy discussion, and it seems a little bit curious that they would have these lengthy discussions and the President would have that conversation with President Castro, but this issue of the terror list, which is so important to the Cubans, would remain kind of an open question. 12:52:09 MR. RHODES: I see. Well, the Cubans understand our process, and they essentially understand that the President will make a decision when all of the various elements of our review are completed. So there is not really a cause for much discussion about the SSOT because, frankly, they understand that that is a process that the United States is undertaking. I would add that we are doing this review based not on a broader set of considerations about our relationship with Cuba. The review looks at the very narrow question of is Cuba a state sponsor of terror; does Cuba provide support for terrorist attacks abroad; do they provide support for international terrorist organizations. And so on that narrow question, we've completed the work of the review, and the President will make that final determination. At the same time, we have a variety of issues that we're talking to the Cubans about that relate to the formal establishment of diplomatic relations through the opening of embassies. The two leaders have decided to take that step of establishing diplomatic relations, but there are a lot of very practical issues that relate to establishing embassies that run the gamut from the types of operations that our various diplomats do, the types of resources that support both of our embassies. So there are actually just very practical, specific and sometimes technical issues that we're reviewing with the Cubans as part of that process that Roberta Jacobson has been leading, but that Secretary Kerry has been engaged in, as well. And the fact is that part of this process of normalization is communicating more regularly at different channels. So again, not just at the Assistant Secretary level, but at the level of Secretary Kerry and President Obama. So again, their discussion I think was largely focused on the issues associated with the establishment of the formal diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies. Q It seems that a Summit of the Americas (inaudible) where you'd want to showcase some kind of breakthrough. Do you agree? And have you set up a specific meeting with President Castro -- perhaps tomorrow -- that will show the rest of the hemisphere what the progress has been? 12:54:38 MR. RHODES: Well, first of all, the fact of the summit and Cuba's participation of the summit I think already indicates the historical nature of this gathering, and the significant changes that were announced by the United States and Cuba in December, as does the first-of-its-kind civil society forum that's taking place here. So I think you already see leaders across the region welcoming the decision that President Obama took both privately and publicly, as you saw with the CARICOM countries yesterday. With respect to the two Presidents, we certainly do anticipate that they will have the opportunity to see each other at the summit tomorrow to have a discussion. So we will keep you updated as to any interaction between the leaders. Again, we don't have a formal meeting scheduled at a certain time, but we certainly anticipate that they will have a discussion tomorrow in the context of the summit -- on the margins of that summit. Q Quickly, on another subject. Iran's Supreme Leader and President Rouhani are saying they will not sign a nuclear agreement unless all economic sanctions are lifted on the first day of the deal's implementation. And Khamenei also said that no military facilities would be available for inspections. Is that a deal -- is that kind of a nonstarter as far as the United States is concerned, or the P5? 12:56:10 MR. RHODES: Again, we have an agreement with the P5+1 and the Iranians on the framework of a comprehensive nuclear deal. And on those two specific issues, with respect to sanctions I think it's very clear and understood that sanctions relief will be phased with respect to Iran; that they will have to conduct certain -- take certain steps as a part of earning the continued provision of sanctions relief. There is one particular question that relates to U.N. Security Council resolutions. And there, what we are working to do is to ensure that there is a maintenance of the ability to snap back into place sanctions on Iran on a multilateral basis. But also, as we take the various different U.N. Security Council resolutions that form the basis of the multilateral sanctions, that the U.N. Security Council will replace that architecture of sanctions with a U.N. Security Council resolution that both endorses the comprehensive deal -- if we complete one -- but also, while providing sanctions relief to Iran, preserves important sanctions, including on areas that are not related to its nuclear program, like ballistic missile and sensitive technologies. So this is an area where we are working to finalize details between now and June 30th, as well as the provision of the ability for sanctions to snap back into place. Certainly the Iranians are emphasizing their interest and desire to achieve sanctions relief in this deal. But the fact of the matter is we have a framework, and the President has said if the details don't bear out the agreement that was reached, we're not going to get a final deal. So what we will be testing over the next two and a half months as we seek to finalize the comprehensive deal is just how we can lock the framework into an implementation plan that gives us the assurance that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon. On the military sites, similarly, clearly there will have to be the ability for the IAEA to conduct inspections that are consistent with what's in the framework, which includes resolving past issues of concern with the IAEA related to possible military dimensions of Iran's program, as well as Iran joining the additional protocol and having the ability of the IAEA to inspect suspicious sites, no matter where they are, if the United States and other countries, again, present information and seek access through the IAEA to those sites. So the President believes that the framework that was reached is a sound one, a good one, and that frankly we need to make sure that over the next two and a half months the details that are negotiated and the implementation plan that is negotiated locks in that framework. And if the final deal isn't consistent with the framework that we've reached, we won't be able to get there. But I'm confident that there is going to be the ability to work hard and complete this work if Iran continues to show a will to get this done. MR. EARNEST: Jim. Q First up for you, Josh, and maybe Ben wants to comment on this, as well. But on the possibility of a meeting between Raul Castro and President Obama, is it difficult for them to have a -- is it politically difficult for them to have a formal sit-down meeting, bilateral meeting as long as they continue to be on the terrorist list? Is that something that has to be overcome before they can actually sit down in a bilateral? Must it continue to be casual, sort of step-aside meetings until -- 13:00:11 MR. RHODES: No, Jim, I don't think so. The two leaders have made this decision to pursue normalization, recognizing that there are going to be all kinds of differences along the way. There will be some areas that we can identify for practical cooperation and some areas of difference. And again, the fact is we are nearing completion of the SSOT review. So we don't think that that in any way should get in the way of the two leaders being able to have discussions. They've spoken on the phone twice. And in those discussions they'll certainly have areas of difference, just as they also I think will underscore that they're both committed to the new path that the United States and Cuba are on. Q So do you expect more than informal meetings then at this point? Or are you -- 13:01:04 MR. RHODES: Jim, we'll see. Frankly, a lot of this is just working around a schedule at the summit tomorrow in which there are various plenary sessions. But at times, the President is able to step out and have meetings and discussions with other leaders, and we'll keep you updated as we lock in more details related to his interactions with other leaders. Q Just on the policy itself, in this new era of diplomacy, the President has repeatedly said that he believes engagement is the best way to effect change for the Cuban people. Does that change that the U.S. is looking for now continue to include regime change? Or has the policy changed about that? 13:01:43 MR. RHODES: Well, Jim, we're establishing -- we're committed to establishing diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. So we are not focused on overthrowing the Cuban government. We're not focused on changing the existing regime at a time when we're obviously engaging that government. I think where there's a difference relates to our respective political systems. And clearly, the United States is going to continue to have issues with, at times be critical of, elements of the Cuban political system. And the types of things that we like to support and like to see around the world involve respect for freedom of assembly, political participation, the ability of citizens to access information. So all of those values and principles we'll continue to support, but we've clearly made a decision to engage the Cuban government. And while we have a complex history with Cuba, I think what's clearly understood here in the hemisphere is the United States is not in the business of going around and overthrowing governments in Latin America. We're in the business of practical cooperation, and where we do have differences we articulate those clearly and directly and publicly. But again, we work within the context of a region that has been moving in the direction of democracy and greater development and prosperity. So the trend lines are good. And frankly, we believe our engagement with Cuba will certainly improve the lives of the Cuban people, and in no way does it change our commitment to seeing the values we believe in take hold across the Americas broadly. Q But do you envision Raul Castro assisting the United States in any way dealing with the Venezuelan issue here at this conference, which is a major issue for many of the other countries? 13:03:45 MR. RHODES: Well, I think Venezuela is an issue where we clearly have at times found reasons to criticize the government's actions in terms of elected officials and opposition leaders being put in prison, for instance. At the same time, we've indicated that we're open to a dialogue with Venezuela as well. We'll make our positions very clear in that dialogue. Cuba clearly has a close relationship with the Venezuelans. But again, I think these are issues that frankly we can discuss directly with Venezuela as we recently did by having Tom Shannon, a senior State Department official, travel to Venezuela for a series of meetings. So our principal way of communicating with Venezuela will be direct dialogue, even as we know that there are going to be differences between our two governments on a variety of issues. Major. Q For you, Josh and Ben. So this meeting tomorrow -- under normal circumstances you would have preparatory lower-level meetings to lead to something. Is it fair for us to conclude that the phone call -- the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister meeting yesterday were a prelude building up to whatever happens tomorrow, and that there is a desire to have something that is more substantive than a glancing encounter? That this is going to be something where some business of some kind is going to be discussed between these two leaders? And, Josh, can you give us any kind of commitment to coverage or visibility of this? Because it will obviously be enormously important (inaudible). Then I've got a follow-up on what happened here Wednesday. 13:05:33 MR. RHODES: So again, depending on the nature of their discussion, we'll certainly take into consideration the interest that folks will have in covering it. So we certainly understand the historic nature of this summit generally, and any interaction between the two leaders. So we'll certainly take that on-board, Major. With respect to the preparatory work -- as we've had this process of normalization, there have been a series of discussions. So over the course of the last several months, since the Presidents made their announcements, Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, has met a number of times with her Cuban counterpart in both Havana and in Washington. Secretary Kerry has spoken on the phone with the Cuban Foreign Minister. We have other dialogues with the Cubans on a variety of issues. So there is actually a growing communication with the Cuban government that is consistent with normalizing relations. And that includes, frankly, other issues too. We, for instance, are very interested in supporting the development of greater telecommunications capacity inside of Cuba, which frankly would be good not just for U.S. businesses but for the Cuban people and their ability to access information. The State Department had their lead advisor on telecommunications issues travel to Cuba. So there's a range of issues where we've been in a dialogue with the Cubans. So the two leaders, I think, will be able to address and take stock in any discussion they have -- where we are in the process of normalization; where we are in the discussions around the establishment of embassies; and where we are going to continue to have differences and be up front and candid about those differences. Frankly, I think just the fact of the summit, too, and Cuba's participation does signal a new chapter in this region that is very broadly welcomed by the countries of the Americas. So I think that will be -- I think you'll hear other leaders tomorrow speaking to their support for the decision the President made. Q And on Wednesday, there was a fracas here between Cuban dissidents and pro-Castro supporters. The dissidents we talked to say that is an illustration that Cuba feels unencumbered; that it can quash dissent not only in Cuba but at the Summit of the Americas, and that flagrant use of force to beat up people who want to have a different opinion and want to have a political voice in Cuba ought to be renounced by the United States. And from their perspective, the move toward normalizing relations is only going to feed the desire and the will of the Cuban regime to continue behavior like that. How do you react to that? 13:08:27 MR. RHODES: Well, Major, first of all, we obviously renounce any use of violence to silence the voices of civil society activists and citizens, whether they be from Cuba or anywhere in the Americas. On that particular incident, we expressed our serious concerns about the use of violence against those civil society representatives. And frankly, how grossly inconsistent that was with the spirit of dialogue here in the Americas. The fact of the matter is though, Major, what you're seeing at this summit is, those voices were not silenced. They are participating on the margins of the Summit of the Americas and the Civil Society Forum. They are, together with people from across the region, representing civil society who have differences of views. And the view of the United States has always been there's nothing to fear from civil society. Civil society, on the contrary, has a fundamental role to play in all of our societies and all of our countries. And so we'll continue to speak out in support of the ability of independent voices in Cuba to be heard, the ability of people to speak freely without fear of intimidation. And yes, we have seen regular patterns of harassment of civil society in Cuba. But our very strong belief is that a policy that the United States had pursued for 50 years was not succeeding in many different ways, including in supporting a more positive environment within Cuba for civil society; and that, frankly, U.S. engagement with the Cuban people over the long run is going to improve circumstances for the Cuban people, is going to give them greater access to information, is going to give them greater interconnection with the rest of the hemisphere and the rest of the world. So our strategy of engagement with Cuba is not only entirely consistent with our support for civil society; it, frankly, is a better way of being able to engage a broad cross-section of the Cuban people as they seek to improve their own lives and their own connections with the United States and the people of the Americas. Q Quick question about the phone call on Wednesday. Can you tell us how long it lasted, and also just give us some more details about what they actually talked about? 13:10:47 MR. RHODES: Well, again, they discussed the continued efforts that we were making with respect to the establishment of diplomatic relations. They discussed the upcoming summit and the ongoing conversations that Secretary Kerry is leading with his counterpart, both on the diplomatic relations and with respect to the summit. And they reviewed the fact that we're going to continue to have areas of common cooperation but also areas of difference. So again, I think they touched on the different elements of the normalization process and the nature of the U.S.-Cuban relationship. And I think it was a good opportunity to set a clear direction for the continued discussions that Secretary Kerry would have with Foreign Minister Rodriguez. And as we come to the summit that is truly historic in nature, that is the first time Cuba is participating in Summit of the Americas, it made sense for the two of them to be in contact as we prepared for the various interactions we were going to have both with Cuba here and with other leaders from the hemisphere. Q How long did it last? MR. RHODES: I can't give you a specific time. It was not a particularly lengthy call. We can go back and check, and I can let you know if we can be more specific. MR. EARNEST: Toluse. Q Could you let us know who initiated the call? Was it the Cubans? Was it the President? Who decided to make this call? 13:12:28 MR. RHODES: Well, I think it was a mutual decision because we are in discussions with Cuba in a variety of channels. We certainly thought it was a good idea for there to be a phone call between the leaders so we could make clear where we are in terms of our efforts, where we see potential for progress, where we need to continue to stress that there are going to be differences between our governments. So I think it emerged out of the discussions that we've been having with the Cuban government, and the timing on the eve of the summit was appropriate for both sides. Q In terms of tomorrow's meeting, have the Cubans actually requested a meeting? Have they asked for a sit-down with the President? 13:13:18 MR. RHODES: Again, we've been in contact with the Cubans, and they certainly -- as we are -- they're certainly expecting that we'll be able to find a time for the two leaders to have that discussion on the margins of the Summit of the Americas. And frankly, we'll just continue to work through the details of how we can structure that interaction consistent with the fact that there's an ongoing series of plenary sessions that the two leaders are participating in. But we, from the level of Secretary Kerry on down, have a variety of ways of having that conversation with the Cubans. Q One quick one on the Iranian negotiations and the Ayatollah's comments yesterday. In the past, Josh, you've said that President Rouhani has basically missed -- he's focused on one area of the agreement, but yesterday the Ayatollah basically said that the framework that you all put out was misleading and that it lied. How do you sort of react to that, that ratcheting up of the commentary? 13:14:31 MR. RHODES: So I think what I'd say is this. The Supreme Leader has said many, many things over the years that we have strong objections to. But the fact of the matter is, if you go back and look at the Joint Plan of Action, the interim agreement that we reached with the Iranians, there was a similar dynamic in the sense that we reached a Joint Plan of Action in November of 2013. We released information about that Joint Plan of Action knowing that we still had to finalize the implementation details which were not done until January. In that period of time between November and January, the Iranians criticized the information we put out, and they said that it did not reflect the deal. But the fact of the matter is, they then implemented the deal. The details that were negotiated reflected the Joint Plan of Action, and they have abided by every commitment that they made to the United States and the P5+1 in the Joint Plan of Action. So we've been through this before where the Iranians clearly want to highlight certain aspects for their own public. They have their own hardliners who are skeptical of this deal. But that cannot change the facts of what not just the United States, but the P5+1 agreed to in terms of this framework in Lausanne. And the test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader. The test is going to be whether, if at the end of June we have a document that is agreed to that is able to be presented, that represents what is necessary for us to meet our core objectives of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and having the type of inspections and transparency that can verify that. MR. EARNEST: Jim. Q Can you go ahead and just tell us what the State Department is recommending on the list of state sponsors of terrorism? 13:16:39 MR. RHODES: So, Jim, the President will be the one who has to make the final judgment about a recommendation, so we won't want to prejudge his decision by getting into what the State Department document says. But again, what I would say is the question in this process is does Cuba provide support for terrorism? Have they engaged in actions, and are they currently providing support for international terrorist organizations? And that's a very specific question. And the President will be guided and looking at the review by the facts, by the specific question of does Cuba act as a state sponsor of terrorism. And, look, there may be instances in history where Cuba has certainly done things and supported acts of violence that the United States strongly objects to, but the reason why there's a process to review a country's inclusion on that list is because circumstances change, and we need to regularly reassess whether or not a country should still be on the list or, frankly, whether there's a country that isn't on the list that should be on the list. So I don't want to prejudge the decision, but I think it is important to highlight that this is focused specifically on the factual question of Cuba's relationship with terrorism and its commitment to not provide support for terrorism. Q On the meeting that you're saying should take place tomorrow, the encounter, interaction -- whatever you want to call it -- would you put this on the same level as the last high-level encounter between a Cuban and U.S. leader going back to Vice President Nixon and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro in 1959, and before that Eisenhower and Batista? Is that a fair comparison to make in terms of what we're going to be seeing tomorrow? Or is this going to be so fast, it really just doesn't meet that kind of standard? 13:18:45 MR. RHODES: I think it's a fair comparison, Jim. And look, we've already had the first interaction, first meeting between our foreign ministers since 1958. That happened last night. We've had the first phone calls between the President of the United States and the President of Cuba certainly that I'm aware of since a similar timeframe. So we're in new territory here. And the reason we're here, though, is because the President strongly believes that an approach that was focused entirely on isolation, focused entirely on seeking to cut off the Cuban people from the United States of America had failed, and that a policy of engagement won't just lead to the ability to work with the Cuban government in some areas, it will lead to much greater engagement with the Cuban people. And even just over the course of the last several months, we're seeing things that would have been unimaginable a year ago. Because of the restrictions that the President changed, the policy changes that he's already made, you have Airbnb setting up a business in Cuba so that people can travel there and stay in Cuban homes, which is good for Americans and good for the Cuban people. You have direct air links that are going to be established so people can travel directly to Cuba from the United States. You have very important, symbolic efforts like the NBA traveling down to Cuba. Much greater interaction and people-to-people exchanges already. So this is not just about two leaders sitting down together, it's about fundamentally changing how the United States engages Cuba -- its government, its people, its civil society. All of that is reflected here at the summit. And we believe that will have a profoundly positive impact not just for our own interests, but for the Cuban people. Q Can I ask you one on Iran? Are you guys going to be okay in being able to deal if they do come up with a veto-proof majority in the Senate to give Corker -- the Corker bill the ability to provide a check on whatever deal -- is that something that you -- I suppose you'll have to if they do come up with that veto-proof majority. 13:21:09 MR. RHODES: Well, I don't want to prejudge what may happen in Congress. I don't know, Josh, if you want to add anything to this. But the fact of the matter is, next week we'll have the ability to brief Congress on the framework. We'll have the ability to explain why certain actions by Congress in this very sensitive negotiating period would be counterproductive to getting the deal done. That will involve Secretary Kerry. That will involve Secretary Moniz. That will involve other members of our national security team. And I think what we'd say to Congress is: We understand you have a role to play. We respect your interest in Iran policy and the need for there to be a congressional oversight of the deal, but here's why we believe that this window of time needs to be protected in terms of there not being actions that are counterproductive, and why we believe we're working towards a good deal. And if and when there are votes, we'll deal with that. But frankly, we're not at that point yet. We're at a point of consulting with different members of Congress. MR. EARNEST: Jim, I think the only thing I would to add to that is it's just important to remember, even as we evaluate potential congressional activity, is this is not an agreement just between Iran and the United States, but this is an agreement between Iran and the broader international community. And it's important that Congress, even as they -- as Ben pointed out -- take actions that are consistent with their rightful role of having oversight over the deal also recognize that international unity has been critical to our success in applying pressure to Iran and getting them to make the kinds of important commitments that they've already made to ensure that we've shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapons. Chris. Q Thanks. I just want to follow up on Major's question about the scuffle. (Inaudible) some folks from Miami (inaudible). On Wednesday you said that -- you expressed concern over certain leaders of civil society. Can you be any more specific about what was said or who you spoke with, or who (inaudible)? Can you just put a little more context to that? 13:23:17 MR. RHODES: Well, look, we spoke publicly at the time and expressed our serious concern over that incident. We've certainly been able to make clear to the Cuban government our concerns about that incident. We've also been able to speak to Cuban civil society and other civil society members. And again, this is a regional Civil Society Forum -- so it's not just Cuban participants, but there are people from across the region -- to encourage a respectful dialogue that is consistent with the spirit of the Summit of the Americas, which should be a place for all the people of the region to come together, not because they're going to agree on everything, but because having this type of platform for dialogue is in our interest. And again, this is a unique occurrence in terms of the Civil Society Forum. This is the first time there's been a forum like this at a Summit of the Americas; certainly been the first time you've had Cuban participation in that summit. That would include people who are supportive of the government and certainly people who are critical of the government. And I think, Chris, the important thing is that incident took place; it's not inconsistent with incidents you hear about in Cuba. But the Civil Society Forum went on. People continued to have their voices heard. People were still able to participate and interact with civil society from across the region. So, again, that doesn't diminish our concern over what happened, but I think it indicates that people's voices are going to be heard in the end, and resorting to violence and intimidation in 2015 is not going to be sufficient when people want to have their voices heard and want to have a venue to participate with their civil society colleagues from across the region. Q And to the point of what you talked about -- areas of difference and why some of the folks who were involved with that would call the violations of human rights that are ongoing in Cuba, and that's why they oppose this normalization of relations. What's the message? And what's the message specifically to Raul Castro? 13:25:22 MR. RHODES: Well, I think in terms of differences between our government, we have been very clear that we're going to continue to speak up for human rights, and we're going to continue to have differences as it relates to the nature of Cuba's political system -- just as I would fully anticipate the Cuban government to make clear its opposition to the United States' ongoing presence at Guantanamo Bay, for instance. So normalization is a process. We've already changed a lot about our relationship just in the last several months in terms of much greater high-level dialogue and much greater engagement with the Cuban people. I think the next major step is certainly the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies as it relates to the normalization process. But that doesn't mean that there's still not going to be these fundamental tensions that exist. Our question is, is it better to address our differences as it relates to human rights in Cuba by not talking to the Cuban government, by cutting ourselves off from the Cuban people, and by clinging to a policy of isolation that has failed for 50 years, or is it better to give us much greater engagement with the Cuban people and Cuban government to make our views known. Q And finally, when we look at Americans, particularly Cuban Americans, or even folks within that country who oppose the direction that the administration is taking, do you see it as largely generational? 13:26:57 MR. RHODES: Yes -- I think, Chris, first of all, if you look at any sampling of American opinion since the President made his announcement, you see very broad support for what he's done. I think if you look at the Cuban American community, it is very understandable that people of an older generation who recall some very difficult times with the revolution and with the differences between our governments throughout the Cold War, that they might take a much more skeptical view of turning the page to this new chapter. But as you say, you also see a great openness among Cuban Americans, and particularly younger Cuban Americans, for a new approach of engagement. And look, part of what's happened here is the President, when he took office, lifted restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba. So you had Cuban Americans going down to the island in ways that they were not able to before. And frankly, that only increased their support for engagement, because they got down there and they saw that their ability to interact with Cubans, their ability to see what was taking place on the island was a positive development; that they didn't want to be walled off from interaction with Cuba. And very importantly, the most important survey that I've seen recently is the one that said that 97 percent of Cubans support normalization. So where we've always agreed, even with our critics, is on the notion that U.S. policy should support the aspirations of the Cuban people. Well, if 97 percent of the Cuban people want this normalization, how would it be supporting the Cuban people to deny them this normalization? And that's a message that I think we'd be comfortable making and delivering anywhere in the United States to any of our critics, which is to say we share your concern about the situation that the Cuban people face; we share your concerns about some of the restrictions that the Cuban people face. But if the Cuban people are telling us almost uniformly that they think this policy should change and they want greater engagement with the United States, we have to listen to them, as well. Q About the review of the terror list, are you saying that there won't be an announcement during the summit indicating whether Cuba will be removed from the list or not? 13:29:26 MR. RHODES: I think what -- we will continue to be transparent with you about how this process moves forward. Again, right now it's in the final stages in terms of members of the President's national security team having a chance to review the State Department's work. It will come to the President when that's complete. So I'm not ruling out any announcement, but I am saying that we're not there yet in terms of a final recommendation being given to the President and the President making a determination. So we'll keep you updated, but it's not complete at this point. MR. EARNEST: Carol. Q This is for Ben. One of Castro's aides said yesterday that while the terrorism designation is great and everything, it's really going to require the U.S. to lift the embargo, to give back Gitmo, among other things. Can you address that? And can you give a sense of what you guys see as the timing for getting Congress to act on that? 13:30:20 MR. RHODES: So, look, it doesn't in any way surprise me that the Cuban government wants the embargo lifted and wants a variety of changes to take place. The fact of the matter is, though, that -- I mean, that's what we mean when we talk about normalization is a process. The establishment of diplomatic relations and the commitment to open embassies, that's a decision that the leaders have taken, and that's a discussion we're having with Cuba on very specific and technical and practical issues about how two embassies can operate in Havana and in the United States. Even after we open an embassy in Cuba, there is still going to be the congressionally imposed embargo in place and there is still going to be a U.S. presence at Guantanamo that Cuba objects to just as there's still going to be a Cuban political system in place that we're going to find much cause to criticize at certain points. However, the clear direction from the President is that we need to be moving in the direction of greater and greater and greater engagement, not just with the government but with the people. And that's where the embargo comes in, because the people who have suffered significantly under the embargo include ordinary Cubans who are not able to engage with the United States. So the President has called on Congress to begin the work of lifting the embargo. There are efforts underway in Congress in different aspects of that. So, for instance, there's an effort underway to lift the travel ban on Americans traveling to Cuba. We think that is something that would get very broad support in the United States. Why should Americans be denied the ability to travel to Cuba? There are efforts underway to lift some of the restrictions as it relates to agricultural, commercial activity in Cuba, and there are efforts to lift the embargo all together. And look, while we know that's not going to happen in the immediate term, what we see is bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress for the policy the President is pursuing. And if we are demonstrating that engagement is moving forward, has the support of the American people, has the support of the Cuban people, and is helping to support improvements in the life of the Cuban people, I think those coalitions will grow. And just as it was very hard to foresee a year ago that we'd be standing here with Cuba at the summit and the commitment to establish diplomatic relations and all kinds of ties between our people, I think it could change very fast. And you could see congressional action in different aspects in the next -- certainly within the next several years. Q (Inaudible.) MR. RHODES: The terrorist designation? Q No, just for the Congress to do something. 13:33:15 MR. RHODES: Well, we would like Congress to do something as soon as possible. But I think realistically looking at it -- look, I think if you look at something like lifting the travel ban, there's no reason that shouldn't happen very soon because Americans want to travel to Cuba. And I think there will be opposition to that in Congress, so I don't want to make a prediction about anything with respect to how fast Congress will act on a certain matter. But I do think what you'll see is there's bipartisan support for that action, there's support from the American people for that action. We'll make a case for it. And ultimately, it's up to Congress as to when they're able to move that through. Kevin. Q Thanks. Appreciate it. Just housekeeping first. Just to be clear, Thursday there was no phone call between President Obama and Raul Castro? 13:34:05 MR. RHODES: That's right. So there have been different reports. The only call was on Wednesday. They have spoken twice -- once before the announcement December 17th, and the other was Wednesday. Q You mention opposition and perhaps some bipartisan support as well in Congress. Senators Menendez and Rubio have been very forceful in their opposition to this. What do you say to them as they try to represent the constituents who look at the Castro regime as one that has a long track record of human rights abuses, as you pointed out; imprisonment of local dissidents -- property? How do you square this sort of compartmentalization? You know that they've done some of these things, you're aware of it, and yet you seem consistent in your push to try to normalize the relationship. 13:34:46 MR. RHODES: Well, first of all, as I said, we'd point out that the American people support this change, Cuban-Americans increasingly support this change, and the Cuban people overwhelmingly support this change in U.S. policy. So if our concern is what can we be doing that is best for the Cuban people, if the clear indication is did you have 97 percent of the Cuban people supporting normalization, as the recent survey indicated, that signals that we should be moving in a new direction. That's the first thing. The second thing is, we've tried this approach for 50 years and it didn't work. All the things that we've objected to in Cuba were happening over the course of the last several decades. And our policy was in no way changing that. Those practices by the Cuban government were ongoing, despite the embargo, despite the isolation. And this new approach we believe is better -- a better way to improve things on the island; to improve conditions for the Cuban people; to engage with not just the government, but the Cuban people. And look, the last thing I'd say here is we understand that people are going to have differences; we don't expect everybody to agree with what we're doing. But we share the same objective in the sense that we want to see life on the island improve. We believe that that will happen -- that it's much more likely to happen through engagement, and that engagement has to include the Cuban government. And things are changing there. You do see incremental but important economic reforms that are opening up some space for the Cuban people. We want to encourage those reforms, and I think removing ourselves entirely from the conversation with the Cuban people and the Cuban government is not the most effective way to encourage reform. Q Very quick follow-up. Do you have an example in history, whether it be from an American perspective or another perspective, of where you've seen this turn out positively? 13:36:49 MR. RHODES: Well, certainly you have many examples of the United States being engaged with governments that we have profound differences with, and supporting an evolution of those governments over time. Here in the Americas, there are any number of countries that had very authoritarian models in place that evolved into democracies who we would now fully welcome and embrace as members in good standing of the community of democracies -- whether you look at Chile or Argentina, or a variety of other countries in Central America who went through very painful periods -- some of whom we had relations with, some of whom were adversarial to us, some of whom we supported. But our general view is that the trend lines in the Americas are moving in the direction of democracy, and U.S. engagement is a better way of promoting that. And, look, even around the world, we have relations with countries that are constructive where we have not yet seen a transformation. With Vietnam, for instance. The United States initiated diplomatic relations with Vietnam, even though they were a one-party state. That has certainly led to an improvement in terms of U.S. interests in Southeast Asia, U.S. commerce with Vietnam. It's led to an improvement in the lives of the Vietnamese people. But there's still a political progression that has not taken place in Vietnam, and we speak out when we see human rights violations. So if the United States refused to have diplomatic relations with every country in the world that committed human rights abuses, or that we had difference with respect to their political system, we would stop talking to a lot of people, and we would lose the ability to seek to move those countries in a more constructive direction. Singling out Cuba in the way that we have, in our view, doesn't make a lot of sense. Q A question on Venezuela. (Inaudible) we hear from some of the foreign ministers that the U.S. should step back from its declaration of Venezuela being part of the national security threat? (Inaudible) procedural issue as to why it was put on that list. Is there any chance the U.S. might find some way of going back to that (inaudible)? Because clearly it hasn't -- 13:39:15 MR. RHODES: Well, there's a long tradition in the hemisphere of concerns related to the use of certain tools, including sanctions. What the United States has made clear is that there are going to be circumstances around the world where we have to criticize governments when they're engaged in activities like putting opposition leaders in prison. These sanctions that were imposed were focused very specifically on a number of individuals associated with human rights violations. At the same time, I think what we've made clear is that these sanctions were not imposed because we thought Venezuela threatens the security of the United States, and that the United States is not interested in threatening Venezuela or overthrowing its government. And I think you will find broad support in the hemisphere for the notion that Venezuela does have a series of internal challenges that have to be dealt with. The countries in the region have been trying to support and promote dialogue within Venezuela. We've been supportive of their efforts in doing so because instability in Venezuela is not good for the region, just as it's not good for the Venezuelan people. The other thing, though, that we've signaled is, look, even as we're going to be critical, we're not opposed to dialogue. We have a dialogue with the Venezuelan government where we lay out our concerns and can address a variety of issues. And I think that varied approach is something that is well understood in the hemisphere. And I think you'll see a constructive tone taken by many of the leaders on this issue, even if, as a general matter, many countries in the hemisphere are not supportive of the use of sanctions in any case, whether it be Venezuela or other issues around the world. MR. EARNEST: Julie. Q (Inaudible) -- talked about in the first Summit of the Americas that he attended. So I wonder whether you can just characterize for us the President's sort of state of mind as he watches all of these developments unfold here this week -- the phone call, the meeting with Kerry, his own meeting with Castro. Does he feel impatient? Does he feel frustrated that it's taking a long time? Does he feel vindicated? And how determined is he to sort of push this ahead quickly, given that potentially this could all -- a lot of this could be rolled back, with the exception of the congressionally imposed pieces after he's gone from office? 13:41:53 MR. RHODES: I think the President feels very confident that this is the right course and that it's already bearing fruit. Again, because of the announcement we made, and then the policy and regulatory changes we made, you're already seeing commercial activity in Cuba, U.S. business delegations, increased travel and people-to-people exchanges. That is all already taking off, and it's very heartening. And all the reports you hear back from Cuba relate to the fact that the Cuban people just want more and more of that engagement. They're hungry for it. And so I think the President, number one, is very pleased to see activity taking place of its own accord, including outside of governments, including by businesses, state governments, and others reaching out and engaging in the Cuban people in ways that are going to make life better and also advance our own interests. Second, I think he's very pleased that there's enormous support for this in the hemisphere. The last Summit of the Americas we were at, the only thing we talked about was why the United States was opposing Cuba participating in the Summit of the Americas, or why we were still maintaining our policy of isolation. Our Cuba policy, instead of isolating Cuba was isolating the United States in our own backyard. And that has been the trend over many years. This time we arrive here, yes, not agreeing with everybody about everything, so certainly on an issue like Venezuela we've had differences with the Venezuelan government, but I think you find very broad agreement from the leaders here that what the President did is the right thing and it's going to open up the door not just to greater engagement with Cuba, but potentially I think more constructive relations across the hemisphere generally. I think with respect to the timing of the work with the Cuban government, the President said in December, change is not going to come overnight to Cuba because we made this announcement. They're going to continue to have the political system that we have significant problems with, just as they're going to continue to criticize aspects of our foreign policy. But I think what he wants to see is, is this moving forward. Can we demonstrate that there's a process of normalization that is moving forward both in terms of U.S. nongovernmental activity and outreach to the Cuban people, but also our consultations with the Cuban government, our ability to cooperate with them on certain issues, our ability to work through the issues associated with setting up embassies. So as long as we see forward motion here, we know there will be setbacks, there will be things that we strongly object to that the Cuban government does, but if the general direction of our policy is yielding change, increasing engagement with the Cuban people, that's something the President I think is going to feel very confident and positive about. Q Could you tell us at what event today President Obama and President Castro will be in the same room together with the opportunity to exchange greetings, shake hands? 13:44:53 MR. RHODES: The only events that they'll be together today are the arrival ceremony associated with the summit, and then the leaders dinner. So they'll be in the same room for those events. It's possible certainly that they'll see each other there. I would not anticipate an extended discussion between the two leaders tonight. If that happens it's going to happen tomorrow. But they'll be together with the other leaders at the arrival ceremony and the dinner tonight. The President will also be with other Cubans earlier in the day when he's at the Civil Society Forum. He's speaking to the broad Civil Society Forum, which has included both strong, independent critics of the Cuban government, but also supporters of the Cuban government. And then he'll be having a roundtable discussion, the President will, with a number of civil society representatives from across the region. And that will include Cuban participation as well as other countries. He'll be joined at that civil society roundtable by the leaders of Uruguay and Costa Rica. Q I have three questions. First of all, is there something that the President is waiting for to either request or accept a bilat meeting? Does something have to happen? Is there something that he's waiting for? Is too early something that would be good or bad, or is that considered? 13:46:18 MR. RHODES: I don't want people to kind of overthink this in the sense that a lot of this is just about the fact that we'll be setting up discussions with other leaders on the margins of the summit tomorrow at the same time that there are ongoing plenary discussions. So a lot of this is -- it's not conditional on policy. It's how do we work through the ability for him to have discussions with a variety of different leaders in the context of that summit. So we'll keep you updated on timing, but it's a good question in the sense that, no, he's not conditioning a discussion with Cuba on some breakthrough on a certain policy issue. Q And I was going to ask about Venezuela. Venezuela has been very loud about gathering signatures, bringing them to the summit to ask the Obama administration to withdraw the executive order. Has this administration actually communicated directly to the White House to ask for that? Or is that kind of just a lot of just chatter that that administration is making? 13:47:19 MR. RHODES: Look, there's always a lot of chatter out of Venezuela. The fact of the matter is we've been very clear that our criticism of Venezuela has been focused very specifically on a set of human rights concerns and actions and is not suggestive of some U.S. desire to overthrow the Venezuelan government, number one. Number two, we have had a chance to have a dialogue with them. Tom Shannon, who has a lot of experience in the region, very senior official at the State Department, was able to go to Caracas, meet with Venezuelan officials, have a discussion in advance of the summit. And then lastly, President Obama, from the beginning of his time in office, made it clear here in Latin America that he's not focused on or interested in having a bunch of ideological debates that have shaped the polities of the hemisphere in the past. We can argue ad nauseam about what took place in the '60s, the '70s, the '80s. There's all kinds of different ideological perspectives on that. What he's focused on is what type of practical cooperation can we forge in the hemisphere, and then how can we make sure that generally the hemisphere is moving in the direction of greater democracy, greater development, greater collaboration. So that's going to be our posture as it relates to Venezuela and all the other issues on the agenda. Q And then, finally, on Brazil, I understand that the Brazilian President (inaudible) respond during the summit to the U.S. invitation to come back and visit D.C. Has she responded yet? Do you have an answer from her? 13:49:00 MR. RHODES: I don't think we have a specific answer, but he'll certainly be talking to Dilma Rousseff tomorrow. She'll be one of the leaders that I'm sure he has a discussion with at the summit and on the margins of the summit, and one of the issues will be a potential visit. So we'll keep you updated on any timing announcements. MR. EARNEST: We'll just do two more and then we'll call it a wrap. Q Great. Thank you, Ben. You said that the deal that President Obama announced almost four years [sic] ago is bearing fruit. In your opinion, do the Cuban people have more freedom today than they did on December 16th, a day before the deal was announced? 13:49:48 MR. RHODES: So you said years, but it's months. Okay, so, look, I think that the Cuban people are more hopeful about the future than when this was announced. There are a number of Cubans who were released from prison -- political prisoners who were released in December and January; as a part of that agreement, the Cubans took the decision to release individuals whose cases we had raised with them. That was clearly a positive development. I do think you see greater energy within Cuba around issues of civil society, and discussion and debate. So I think the trend lines are positive with respect to how the Cuban people are looking at their future and our ability to engage the Cuban people. Cuba is not going to change from a closed one-party state to a liberal democracy overnight, nor would we expect that to happen. So this is going to be a process over time. But in our view, the trend lines are positive. That doesn't mean that there are not things that concern us. And we said it on December 17th, there were going to continue to be incidents that take place in Cuba that we would find cause to criticize, that we fully expected that. But we want to make sure that our engagement is pushing the trends in general in a positive direction for the Cuban people, and for the United States and the Cuban government to figure out ways to address our differences and cooperate in areas of common interest. Q So (inaudible) -- you would say if the Cuban people have more freedom today than they do -- than they did, rather, on December the 16th? MR. RHODES: I mean, I don't want to suggest -- yes, I think they are better off in terms of the people who are released from prison, in terms of their optimism for the future. But I really don't want to suggest that we believe Cuba has somehow transformed itself over those last four months. This is going to be a very long process of normalization, and the reforms and evolution that's going to take place on the island is going to play out over time. The question is, are our policies going to make it more likely that that evolution moves in a positive direction for the Cuban people, that brings them greater opportunity, greater human rights. We believe that the trends show that, yes, they are moving in a more positive direction. But that in no way means that there are not still practices in Cuba that are entirely inconsistent with how we support universal human rights around the world. Q And just one final one, on Iran, if I may. In the past two days, the White House put out a tweet which seemed to parody in some way a Iran bomb diagram that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed in a speech that he gave at the General Assembly of the United Nations. In your view, that tweet, is this effective diplomacy as it relates to Israel? 13:53:19 MR. RHODES: Well, I guess what I'd say is, first of all, obviously the United States and Israel have an unshakeable alliance that is rooted in shared interest, shared values, and is on display in our security cooperation, in our diplomatic cooperation, and a range of issues. I don't think it's a secret to anybody in this room that the United States and Israel have had very sharp differences as it relates to these Iran negotiations, with respect to the first agreement that was reached and with respect to this framework. Prime Minister Netanyahu has issued very strong criticisms of this deal, as have members of his administration. That's entirely his right. But we're also going to issue strong defenses of this deal. It would make no sense for us to essentially not make our case because of disagreements that have been expressed by the government of Israel. And we have these conversations in private with the Israelis as well. The fact of the matter is -- that was a very specific question. If you look at the graphic that Prime Minister Netanyahu held up at the United Nations, it spoke to an accumulation of stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. And the fact is that stockpile has been eliminated under even the first step agreement. And the stockpile of lower-enriched uranium is going to be almost entirely eliminated as well, as a part of the comprehensive deal -- 97 percent -- just as we're also aiming to cut off the various other pathways to a nuclear weapon that Iran could pursue. So I don't think anybody should be surprised that the United States and Israel, despite our very strong alliance and friendship and cooperation on many issues, are going to continue to be public in terms of expressing our views of the Iran deal. And we'll be making our case, just as Prime Minister Netanyahu and his administration have regularly made their views known. Q Can you tell us what other bilateral meetings the President might be having tomorrow? (Inaudible.) MR. RHODES: So I definitely expect the President to see and meet with President Santos tomorrow. That, too, again, the timing we'll have to be more specific with you as the summit events unfold. But he'll certainly talk to President Santos. President Santos has been very supportive of the President's announcement on Cuba. Frankly, we are also now increasingly engaged in supporting the peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC. That includes discussions that are being hosted in Havana. And our new envoy to those peace talks has traveled to Havana as part of those discussions to provide support to the Colombian government. So I think that the peace process with the Colombian government and the FARC is indicative of a potential transformational change in the region that could take place in ending one of the world's longest-running conflicts, if not the world's longest-running conflicts. And Cuba has played a constructive role in that process. And that speaks I think to how Cuba's relationship with Colombia and the Colombian government has evolved. So I think President Santos will be supportive in any way he can of progress in U.S.-Cuban relations. And he is somebody, again, who -- we share a deep history and shared values with Colombia as a democracy in the hemisphere. I think it points to the fact that it's entirely consistent to stand up for and support democratic values and also to believe that engagement with governments that act inconsistently with those values is a better way of promoting positive change and promoting the human rights we care about here in the Americas. Q On Venezuela, has he offered to -- MR. RHODES: Oh, I'm sorry, I was so focused on Cuba. No, not that I'm aware of. I think that clearly also associated with their ongoing efforts with the FARC, and obviously being neighbors, they have had concerns, differences with the Venezuelan government, but have also pursued dialogue with the Venezuela government. I'd expect President Santos to be supportive of dialogue, but also supportive of, as he has been in the past, a process in the region whereby different countries can support a dialogue within Venezuela to include the government and the opposition that can help stabilize the situation. Because I think what is of broad concern in the region is the potential economic impact that could be associated with growing instability inside of Venezuela. And I think that that provides a strong basis for the countries to have an interest in stability. And I think stability does depend on a dialogue and a process within Venezuela that can lower tensions. MR. EARNEST: Thanks, everybody. Q Hillary is going to announce on Sunday. Will the President support the former Secretary of State or the White House staffers who are going to work for her? 13:58:56 MR. EARNEST: Let me start by saying that I think that after an hour and 15 minutes, this concludes the most focused Summit of the Americas briefing that's ever been conducted in the history of the Summit of the Americas. So let me compliment all of you on that and let you know that we welcome your interest. I had read those reports about a possible campaign announcement over the weekend. We'll wait and see what happens. Thanks, everybody.
WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING
FTG OF THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING W/ ROBERT GIBBS AND SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS DANIEL RESTREPO 15:31:41 walk up 15:32:06 GIBBS: Good afternoon. How's everyone today? (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: Good. Before we do our regularly scheduled programming, I've got a short announcement. And I'm joined for the bilingual portion of this announcement by Dan Restrepo, a special assistant to the president and a senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council. 15:32:27 Today, President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country's future. The president has directed the secretaries of state, treasury and commerce to carry out the actions necessary to lift all restrictions on the ability of individuals to visit family members in Cuba and to send them remittances. He's further directed that steps be directed to enable the freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people. 15:33:11 In taking these steps to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families and to promote increased flow -- to promote the increased flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, President Obama is working to fulfill the goals he identified both during his presidential campaign and since taking office. 15:33:30 All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects the basic human, political and economic rights of all of its citizens. President Obama believes the measure he has taken today, will help make that goal a reality. He encourages all who share it to continue their steadfast support for the Cuban people. Dan? RESTREPO: Thanks, Robert. 15:33:53 (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) GIBBS: And while we have Dan here if there are some specific questions on this we'll be happy to take them. QUESTION: (inaudible) 15:35:54 RESTREPO: Well first you have to extend a hand to the Cuban people in support of their desire to determine their own future. It's very important to help open up space so the Cuban people can work on the, kind of, grassroots democracy that is necessary to move Cuba to a better future. The president promised us during the campaign, and he is making good on that promise today to extend his hand to the Cuban people to ensure that they have more independence from the regime, and the ability to start working down the path that we all want to see them succeed on. QUESTION: (inaudible) 15:36:31 RESTREPO: This is a -- this is reaching out to the Cuban people. QUESTION: Well, the answer is what (OFF-MIKE) GIBBS: I'm sorry. What was the... QUESTION: I'm trying to find out if there's some movement toward the two countries getting together and having a diplomatic (OFF-MIKE) 15:36:48 GIBBS: Well, I think, in many ways, that depends on the actions of the Cuban government. The action that the president took today is one that allows -- one that allows families to visit families, one that allows families to send back some of their hard-earned money to help their family members. And I think, maybe, the best way to sum this up is the way the president summed this up last year, to say that there are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban-Americans. He said, and I quote, "It's time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It's time to let Cuban-American money make their families less dependent on the Castro regime. QUESTION: Does the president want to see an improvement in relations where we actually have... (CROSSTALK) 15:37:45 GIBBS: The president would like to see -- like to see greater freedom for the Cuban people. There are actions that he can and has taken today to open up the flow of information to provide some important steps to help that. But he's not the only person in this equation. QUESTION: Several Republicans from Florida are charging today this is a mistake because they think it's going to -- they're claiming that it will mean something like hundreds of millions of dollars in money that winds up in the hands of the dictatorship. How do you answer that charge? And is there a way that you can specifically structure this so that you make it more likely that the money that gets -- actually get in the hands of the Cuban people and not the dictatorship? 15:38:32 RESTREPO: At least two answers. One is that we think the positive benefits here will way outweigh any negative effects that there may have, that creating independence, creating space for the Cuban people to operate freely from the regime is the kind of space they need to start the process toward a more democratic Cuba. RESTREPO: And, also, the president's very clear that we're getting the United States out of the business of regulating the relationship between Cuban families. The Cuban government should get out of the business of regulating the relationship between Cuban families. It should stop charging the usurious fees that it does on these remittances. The call is very clear that that be done in addition to what we are doing. But we are getting ourselves out; the Cuban government should get itself out of the way and allow Cuban families to support Cuban families. And that creates the kind of space, in our view, that is necessary to move Cuba forward to a free and democratic Cuba. QUESTION: I have one on this and one on pirates, so I don't know how you want to do that. GIBBS: Let's do this, and we'll save pirates for... QUESTION: OK. GIBBS: ... the second, the -- after the -- intermission. (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: In that same speech in Miami that you referenced, the president, as a candidate said he would talk directly to the Cuban government without preconditions, but with a clear agenda. But he has also said that he's not going to lift the trade embargo because there are certain steps he wants the government to take that -- you know, and not give up that leverage first. So it kind of sounds like he's saying two things. First, it's talk without preconditions, then setting conditions in order for relations to move forward. 15:40:13 GIBBS: (inaudible) you may have something on this, too, but I think that -- I think the president has made clear that he is willing to talk to our adversaries. I think at the same time the president has said repeatedly that that is not talk for talk's sake, whether that's with -- well, whether that -- despite what adversary that might be. But I think that the actions that were taken today are intended to, as I said, open up the flow of information, to -- to facilitate that information from getting directly to the -- facilitate it getting directly to the Cuban people and to set up a system whereby we see some results. GIBBS: And I think that the president is willing to do that. QUESTION: But are there conditions before he will engage the government directly or not? GIBBS: Well, I... (CROSSTALK) 15:41:35 GIBBS: Well, I do think there are steps that we would -- that the Cuban government can and must take. And I think, as Dan said, the actions that the government undertakes regarding remittances should -- should stop immediately. Do you have anything you want to add to that? Yes, sir? QUESTION: Why -- why are you and Dan making this announcement and not the president? I mean, he's here, right? He's in the building? GIBBS: Yes. He's -- I think he's in his office, yes. QUESTION: Probably hearing the vibrations... (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: I was going to say hearing the -- the dance music, not unlike I am. (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: So why isn't he making the announcement? Why -- I mean, it looks like as if you're trying to avoid having his voice and picture... GIBBS: Certainly try not to take any of that -- of that personally. (LAUGHTER) 15:42:16 And -- and I noticed the music stopped right as you asked. (LAUGHTER) I mean, a few people showed up today's briefing. I don't... QUESTION: This isn't a small (inaudible) but this isn't a small change in policy. So having the president not talk to the camera about it seems (inaudible). 15:42:37 GIBBS: No. I -- again, I'm standing in the White House briefing room, as the spokesperson for the president of the United States. I assume that when you ask me questions, when we get to pirates or anything else, that my answer won't seem less than what any president would make, as I undertake that task. The president is doing today what the president promised he would do not only on camera, but in Florida many months ago. So I think this is less about the so-called choreography of some announcement and more has to do with the fact that the president is taking some concrete steps today to bring about some much-needed change that will benefit the people of Cuba, to increase the freedom that they have, and more importantly, to allow Cuban-Americans to see their families and to send them money. QUESTION: (inaudible) do you know, is the Cuban government going to be represented at the Summit of the Americas? (UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) QUESTION: They will not be? (UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) QUESTION: If either of you guys could you explain a little more about the part of today's announcement that deals with telecommunications firms being allowed to... (CROSSTALK) 15:44:04 RESTREPO: We want to increase the flow of information among Cubans and between Cubans and the outside world. RESTREPO: And one of the ways we can do that under U.S. -- existing United States law -- back in the Cuban Democracy Act -- is to allow U.S. telecommunications companies to -- seek to provide services on the island. The licensing process has never really went forward. We're allowing that process. The president is directing that, that licensing process go forward. And directing that a -- the regulation system be put into place to allow U.S. persons to pay for cell coverage that already exists on the island. Again, so Cubans can talk to Cubans. And Cubans can talk to the outside world without having to go through the filter that is the Cuban government. QUESTION: So just cell phones is what this is talking about, right? RESTREPO: This is cell phones, satellite television, satellite radio. This is forms of -- modern forms of telecommunications to increase the flow of information to the Cuban people so that if anyone is standing in the way of the Cuban people getting information, it is the Cuban government, and it is not some outside technical problem that can be pointed to. Taking away those excuses and putting -- and trying to create the conditions where greater information flows among the Cuban people, and to and from the Cuban people. QUESTION: (inaudible) So if this happens as it's intended to happen, is the idea that a U.S. company would be providing, sort of, U.S. television programming on -- beaming it onto the island? Is that the idea? 15:45:38 RESTREPO: The idea is to increase the flow of information, be it, what we see here in the United States, the global marketplace of television and radio, to make -- to make that a possibility for the Cuban people. And to ensure that the United States government is not standing in the way of that; to make clear that more -- we stand on the side of having more information rather than less information reach the Cuban people, and for them to be able to communicate among themselves. QUESTION: So -- but the Cuban government would have to allow it to go forward? I mean, they could stop this if they wanted to, I assume? 15:46:14 RESTREPO: The Cuban government could stop this. And they could stop part of this. RESTREPO: Part of the providing -- allowing U.S. persons to pay for cell coverage and ongoing services on the island today is something that the Cuban government would have a very hard time getting in the middle of. In terms of allowing -- allowing or disallowing U.S. companies to provide services on the island is something that would clearly require participation of those entities that control information on the island. GIBBS: I want to go back there in one second. RESTREPO: Yes. 15:47:04 GIBBS: But I want to add something to your original question, Chuck. I think one of the things that's important about today's announcement -- I don't know Spanish, the president knows a few words of Spanish. But I think what's important today is we're doing this in a way that is not just going to be heard by a few people. We're doing this so that Cuban Americans can hear loud and clear the steps that the president are taking... QUESTION: So what, you're trying to send a message to the Cuban people as well. And his image is a... GIBBS: Well... (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... would you argue, an important image to beam... GIBBS: Dan's not going to take that seriously. QUESTION: No, to beam into Cuba. GIBBS: Well, it is. But I think what's important, too, is that that image that is beamed in there today is in a language that they can all understand and take heart in. Yes, ma'am? QUESTION: Yes, this announcement comes in the wake of the Assembly of the Americas. And several Latin American leaders have been pressuring for strong change of policy to Cuba -- lifting of the embargo and -- and the acceptance of Cuba in the OAS. How much of this is pressure by Latin American leaders? And do you expect this to quell some of the Cuba attention in the summit? 15:48:05 GIBBS: Well, this is a fulfillment of a campaign promise that the president made a little less than a year ago, so this is in no way designed to or done in a way to quell so-called pressure. It's simply the fulfillment of what the president believed was right in 2007, right was in -- right in 2008, and in 2009, he has the ability to change it. RESTREPO: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) 15:48:38 I'm going to do that in Spanish for her. QUESTION: A couple questions. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers -- some lawmakers are urging the administration to go even further and lift all travel restrictions for all Americans to Cuba. So how does the administration feel about that? And secondly, it's my understanding that the State Department has said Cuba policy is under review, which would suggest that there may be further changes coming -- and if you could talk about that and whether you view this step today as perhaps a prelude to further normalization or greater diplomatic engagement with Cuba? 15:50:11 RESTREPO: It's important to focus on what is being done today. This is a significant step in reaching out to the Cuban people and supporting their desires to live in freedom. The -- we understand that others have different views on how best to accomplish that. The president is very clear today that this is the step that he is taking to advance the cause of freedom to the Cuban people, to advance our national interest. This is a decision driven by our national interests and how best to advance it and how best to bring to fulfillment the promise he made. He was very clear that, when he made that promise, that the best ambassadors for freedom was to begin with family, to allow family members to support family members, to allow direct humanitarian reaching out, because you know where it's headed. That's an important piece, here, and it's the most direct means of opening the kind of space that is crucial for advancing the cause of freedom in Cuba. U.S. policy toward Cuba is not frozen in time. It's not frozen in time today. These are the steps that the president believes makes sense to advance the cause of freedom in Cuba. Obviously, like all aspects of policy, you have to react to the world that you encounter. And so I don't think we should think of -- we shouldn't think of things as being frozen in time. QUESTION: Do you have a position on the travel ban -- the overall travel ban? RESTREPO: The president believes the place to start is with allowing Cuban-Americans to visit families members, to support them through remittances, to extend the flow of -- free flow of information and to allow people to send humanitarian packets that have the full range of humanitarian aspects to it. Putting -- allowing people to send clothing and fishing supplies and seeds and soap-making equipment that was stripped out of what was allowed a few years ago, allowing people to do that again, allowing people to do that to anyone on the island who is not a member of -- a senior member of the Cuban government or the Communist Party. RESTREPO: Those are the steps that the president believes are the most effective under the current circumstances to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people. QUESTION: So if you're saying this isn't frozen in time, how long will you give this policy a chance to work before reassessing it, and maybe going further? GIBBS: Since we just did this a few minutes ago, let's... QUESTION: No, the president has set timetables for other policy reviews. Does he have a timetable for the... GIBBS: No. RESTREPO: In light of what has gone on over the last few days with Somalia -- proves that failed economies create failed states, Robert. Is the president thinking of any programs, especially for somebody more fragile; economies in this region whereby he might enhance the travel exemption for purchasing power for the Americans who travel there? Increase that kind of load, as well? GIBBS: Yes, I'm not sure I fully understood the question. QUESTION: Well, we've got quite a -- Americans get quite a substantial tax exemption when they travel to this area. In fact, I think it's the best for Americans. Will the president -- because of the situation now -- that the economy -- will he look for enhancing that tax exemption to allow more purchasing power for Americans as they travel to that area? RESTREPO: When you say "that area," are you saying Cuba or the America writ large? QUESTION: I'm not saying Cuba. I'm saying for the Caribbean and for South America, which is very generous to begin with. 15:53:36 RESTREPO: I think that the president in -- as we look to the summit of the Americas at the end of the week, is looking -- understanding that the economic crisis and the effects of the economic crisis are being felt very hard around the hemisphere. Understanding that U.S. economic recovery is a very important piece of hemispheric economic recovery. Understanding that the steps that were taken in London at the G-20 have important implications for the countries in the hemisphere. And ensuring that assistance and support get to the most vulnerable aspects of society throughout the region. He's focused on those things. As we head towards the summit, you're going to see more of that. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but you're going to see a very clear focus on the most compelling issue facing the Americas today, which is the same issue facing us: of how do you deal with the economic crisis, and how do you ensure that economic recovery reaches all levels of society. QUESTION: So this may be on the table? RESTREPO: The... (LAUGHTER) 15:54:34 I guess I'll have to admit, plead ignorance as to the specific of what you're -- my understanding of the specific thing you're talking about now. But I think as the week unfolds you will see a clear set of policy proposals and ideas that the president's going to put forward to help the economy of the Western Hemisphere. QUESTION: When you come to this country you're allowed to bring, I think, $1,500 worth of tax-free, duty-free goods. Will that be increased? Will that -- will that level be increased to increase commerce? GIBBS: I don't think that's something that we're working on. QUESTION: Will you allow -- does this announcement allow direct flights between the U.S. and Cuba? How will Cuban-American families get there? 15:55:23 RESTREPO: The announcement puts in place or directs the secretaries of commerce, treasury and state to authorize those transactions necessary to make this a reality. There are charter flights that exist which Cuban-American families, under the current very restricted travel, have access to. Those, in all likelihood, will have to be expanded if there is an increase in demand for that activity. QUESTION: You would allow an -- you would allow a commercial airline right now to start... RESTREPO: There are flights that -- there are flights, charter flights... QUESTION: Charter flights, I know that. RESTREPO: ... charter flights now. QUESTION: But you would allow a commercial airline to start more regularly scheduled stuff or... GIBBS: I think that's exactly what he's instructed... QUESTION: To look into whether... (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Does the president want to see -- excuse me, does the president want to see Cuba admitted into the Organization of American States? 15:56:10 RESTREPO: The president looks forward to the day when a Cuban government that respects the basic principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which are the rules that the hemisphere has come up to govern itself, abides by that. Everybody who abides by the Inter-American Democratic Charter should have a seat at the Organization of American States. QUESTION: And then a follow-up. The Latin American countries are going to be pressuring the American President Obama to -- for greater normal -- normalization of relations. Is the announcement today an attempt to inoculate the president and the White House a bit from this? GIBBS: I think I answered that about four questions ago. GIBBS: The answer to that is no, because like I said, this was a promise that the president made during the campaign, I think in both of the years that we were a candidate. And it's a fulfilling of that promise, not -- not anything related to, as I said, so-called pressure. RESTREPO: Do you want to do the OAS... GIBBS: Yes. QUESTION: Robert, can I have... STAFF: Hold on one second. We're going to do the... 15:57:11 RESTREPO: The OAS question in Spanish. (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: Un momento. (LAUGHTER) GIBBS: That was pretty good, wasn't it? RESTREPO: Actually, Robert, you can take over now. GIBBS: No, no, no, no. no. (LAUGHTER) You just hit my -- you just hit my limit on... RESTREPO: (SPEAKING SPANISH) QUESTION: You said the president would look into the idea of allowing direct commercial travel, presumably for relatives? I mean only... GIBBS: Well, no, what I said was -- huh? What's that? QUESTION: ... for relatives? GIBBS: Well, again, the policy relates to Cuban-Americans that have relatives in Cuba. I think what Chuck was asking was the -- no pun intended, the delivery vehicle. (CROSSTALK) 15:58:21 GIBBS: Well, again, as Dan said, there are charter flights. I think there are -- in some of the stories I've seen, travel agents in Florida talk about hearing from a far greater number of potential clients today and in the previous couple of days, anticipating the change that the president announced today. QUESTION: And the idea is that family travel might sustain direct commercial flights between Miami and Cuba? 15:58:46 GIBBS: Well, I think the answer to that is at current unknowable, but that is exactly why the president has directed the secretary of state, secretary of treasury and the secretary of commerce to come up with plans relating to the lifting of these restrictions. Do you guys have anything back there? Nothing? No. QUESTION: I'm from Colombia, and I know this is not the topic about this press briefing, but for me (inaudible) to ask you if President Obama is planning to have a meeting with President Uribe in Colombia? QUESTION: And how is going to be that relationship between both governments during the Obama administration? Because, of course, Colombia was like a child in Latin America for the White House, but I know it's not going to be like that anymore. 15:59:39 RESTREPO: President Obama values the deep and historic, constructive, positive relationship that's existed between the United States and Colombia and looks forward to advancing that relationship. He looks forward to seeing President Uribe and his fellow colleagues at the summit of the Americas and working as -- he sees the summit as a first step in creating the kinds of relationships and partnerships in the hemisphere to advance the basic responses to the common challenges we face, all countries face, in the atmosphere. A positive relationship with Colombia is certainly part of that. The United States and Colombia share a deep connection. I'm half Colombian. My last name is something of a dead giveaway on that. So I feel this at a very personal level. But it's important to recognize the importance of the relationship from government to government that has not been dependent on one president or another president, but the deep relationship that exists between the United States and Colombia. And we look forward to working with the Colombian government and the Colombian people. QUESTION: After (OFF-MIKE) the White House is waiting the Cuban government to do something similar to (OFF-MIKE) direction? 16:00:58 RESTROPO: Everyone's waiting for the Cuban government to respect the basic human, economic and political rights of the Cuban people, to release political prisoners unconditionally, not as a result of this decision but as a result of complying with his basic international commitments. What the president has done today is to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire for the very same thing. QUESTION: Have you (OFF-MIKE) Spanish (OFF-MIKE) 16:01:30 RESTROPO: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) QUESTION: Well, you know, there are economic implications to your announcement. I -- I would bet that, on Wall Street, right now, airline stocks are through the roof and so are telecommunications. In this first step, are there any other economic implications to this announcement? GIBBS: You're looking for a stock tip? GIBBS: You just gave us two (inaudible). QUESTION: I'm the Washington editor for paradise (ph). GIBBS: I hear you. Well, you know... 16:02:31 RESTREPO: The thrust here is, again, reaching out to the Cuban people and making sure that the United States government isn't standing in the way of their desire to live in freedom; making it clear -- making a clear call to the Cuban government to also get out of the way. And to support that basic desire. The implications -- kind of one way or the other -- may distract from the central premise here, which is support for that day that everybody wants to see: where the Cuban people get to decide the future of their own country. QUESTION: Now, translate that into financial terms. RESTREPO: I'm bilingual, not trilingual. GIBBS: That would be inexplicable to virtually everyone here. Do you have one more follow-up on this? Well, I was going to say, that's interesting. You get to say "thank you" twice on this. No, I know. Yes, what's next? QUESTION: Well, the president talked in both his statement yesterday and his remarks today about addressing the bigger picture here; the increasingly problematic situation at the horn of Africa. In his briefing over at the Pentagon, defense secretary said, you know -- some language -- something, like, "We're going to have to figure out what in the world to do," which implies that there really isn't much of a plan or strategy yet to figure out how to attack this problem. Can you talk about what's going on here? 16:03:58 GIBBS: When you say that, you mean the -- you mean, specifically, maritime or do you mean -- I mean, obviously, you've got -- look, I think you've got a number of problems. The... QUESTION: The maritime piracy problem, which, I think, was what the president was referring to when he said... QUESTION: The president has spoken about this before and I'm sure will continue to speak about and work on the issue also of ungoverned spaces. And I don't think that can be in any way really minimized here. That's something that -- when he went to Africa in 2006, we spent some time in this region of the world -- at least that's a normal ring -- we spent some time in this region of the world. And you quickly understand some of the challenges that lay before you. 16:04:58 GIBBS: I think some of the things that -- that we can -- that we have done and can continue to do to ensure maritime safety is to -- is to work for sustained international cooperation in order to coordinate security. QUESTION: That mean more military power on the part of the U.S.? GIBBS: I think that is certainly -- operationally, I would point you over to the Pentagon, but I know in terms of the increased risk that we had over the past few days you saw more resources and assets. Obviously, this is a -- it's also a very huge, expansive space that has to be patrolled. I think also what has to happen is we do have to evaluate and be prepared to take stronger action interdicting acts of piracy. And I think another thing is to encourage greater efforts to bring individuals and groups suspected of these type of acts, to bring those to justice. We have seen an increase in this type of -- in this type of violence, and I know the president is -- is concerned about the safety and security of -- of men and women that are in that area. QUESTION: Back on Cuba, is there any consideration of some sort of special envoy for Cuba, like Senator Lugar suggested? And also, looking forward to the -- to the summit, is -- or the visit to Mexico -- is there any likelihood that we'll get some sort of announcement on movement on issues like trucking or immigration? GIBBS: We'll have more on a little bit of a trip overview for Mexico later. I don't know of any current envoy plans for Cuba. QUESTION: The White House -- President Obama gave special Pentagon permission to -- authority to send special forces on Friday and Saturday. What were the rules of engagement for those forces? Were they able to shoot at the pirates immediately? Did they have to wait until they felt like Captain Phillips was under some sort of imminent danger? GIBBS: I can -- I will check. And I would point you also to the Pentagon in terms of whatever operational detail they feel safe in giving. And I -- but I -- I don't know that I'm going to get into a lot of operational detail from here. QUESTION: OK. Just one quick follow-up. Do you guys have any response to the fact that a Somali Islamist group took credit or blame, however you want to look at it, for firing mortars at a plane that Congressman Payne was on? GIBBS: Right. Well, I mean, again, I think it goes to -- to a certain lawlessness in the area. Obviously, it is an area of the -- of the -- a region of the world that is extremely dangerous, and that we, in coordination with -- with our international partners have to take steps to control. 16:06:01 GIBBS: These are areas that -- and this is true for many ungoverned spaces -- is that you breed very bad people that want to do very bad things. And the president is focused on the safety and security of the American people. And we'll take steps to ensure that that's the case. QUESTION: Robert, there's a report today suggesting that the Treasury Department may want G.M. to be pushed into bankruptcy pretty quickly, in the next few weeks. What's the president's latest thinking on the best route for G.M.? 16:08:56 GIBBS: Well, in -- in reading the story, I, in all truthfulness, don't find that the story is much different, if at all, than what the president said in -- in making his initial findings on the plans for seeking more aid for G.M. and for Chrysler. The president said that for G.M. this is a path that might ultimately have to be taken in order to put it back on a path toward -- a strong path toward sustainability. 16:09:40 The president and the auto task force haven't prejudged anything. The president believes, as well as the members of the auto task force, that all of the stakeholders involved -- the company, the workers, the bondholders, everybody has to understand that we're going to have to give in order to get G.M. strongly back on its feet. 16:10:08 So I think the story, in my viewing of it, in all honesty recounts exactly what the president said a couple of weeks ago. QUESTION: Bankruptcy has always been an option, basically, and so, there's really -- no -- nothing new in terms of more imminence or pressure from the administration to go in that direction? 16:10:33 GIBBS: No. I mean, look, again, I think it's important that all of those involved understand that the president desires an auto industry that is strong and is resilience and is able to function without government help. I think that's the goal, quite honestly, for every business and bank. The stakeholders involved, I think many of them understand that and have to take steps to make sure that their understanding of that is matched by their actions. The eventuality of that bankruptcy or not, in some ways will be determined by many of those stakeholders. QUESTION: A couple things on Somalia. Is the country a national security risk? Do you guys view the country as a national security risk to this -- to this country, the United States? 16:11:20 GIBBS: Well, I -- I don't want to get out of my lane here on what the national security guys might say. I -- obviously, I will say that whether it is -- whether there is -- whether there are people that are planning on doing things in that country when other countries around the world that seek to do this country harm, there certainly, because -- as I said, because of that, those ungoverned spaces, there is always that concern. I'm not briefed on specific intelligence that would allow me to make such a determination. QUESTION: Was there any interaction between representatives of our government and representatives of the Somali government during this -- during this crisis? GIBBS: I will check with NSC, but I'm -- I'm sure there.... QUESTION: (inaudible) anybody to... GIBBS: Well, I mean... QUESTION: ... to deal with? I mean, is that the issue? 16:12:14 GIBBS: No, I don't -- again, I think the situation, without drawing a sort of broad brush here, I think the situation obviously involved a captive American citizen that the commanders on the Bainbridge believed was in imminent danger and that the president had authorized the use of what actions they deemed necessary to protect his life and ensure his security. QUESTION: You have a preview to tomorrow's speech? 16:12:46 GIBBS: Yes, tomorrow the president -- the president will, I think, discuss again where we are economically. Give people -- give the American people an update on where we are and many of the challenges that continue to lie ahead. You heard the president, late last week, talk about some glimmers of hope. I think the president also understands that even as there are some promising statistics, whether it's housing or something like that, we still are likely to see many, many months of unemployment; where hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs. But I think the president wants the opportunity to update the American people on where we are. What we have to do going forward. And lay out the steps that are being taken to help our economy recover, and to build from recession to recovery; to update the American people on the steps that are being taken related to financial stability and in regulation. And to -- as he has talked about it and I have talked about it on a number of occasions -- address some of the long-term gaps that he sees that have to be addressed in order to ensure that sustained economic recovery, that he and the American people want so badly. QUESTION: You may not know the answer to this, but has another language, other than English, ever been spoken from this podium as far you know? 16:14:34 GIBBS: I don't know the answer to that. But I -- my sense is "no." But I honestly -- I honestly don't know if there's been... (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Mark doesn't think so, and he's a better... GIBBS: Look, if the answer is "no" from Mark, that's quite frankly good enough for me. I think, again -- I think it's important, you know, we didn't do it on accident. We weren't trying to set a record, but it's neat that we did. I think it's important that the people of the -- the Cuban people and the people -- Cuban Americans here hear directly in a language -- in any language that they can understand that the president promised to take steps to encourage and bring about greater freedom for the Cuban people, and that's what he's done so today. QUESTION: One other thing -- on the -- it's a far more complicated question -- on the telecom policy change that you're announcing, I guess I'm just trying to get my head around it, especially this TV portion of this, since it would require that Castro's regime approval. Is this more of a symbolic step? Or do you really expect that there's going to be a rush of satellite TV (inaudible)? 16:15:44 GIBBS: Let me get a better -- let me clarify that better for you with Dan. But I think, as he said, I think the announcement also puts great pressure on the Cuban government to take some steps to ensure that sort of openness. GIBBS: I'll get you some specifics from Dan on licensing and things like that, because I know the satellite part is somewhat complicated (ph). QUESTION: Robert, does President Obama view the Somali pirates as terrorists or the equivalent (inaudible)? GIBBS: Well, I -- I think what the -- what the pirates did in this instance and what they have done in many other instances is violate longstanding international law and to disregard any sort of basic responsibilities. They're (ph) no doubt serious criminal activities. They involve the safety and security of an American citizen. And the president, the Department of Defense and many other agencies acted quickly to ensure that safety and security. I think that whether or not -- whatever label you put on them, there's -- there was a lawlessness, a pervasiveness lawlessness that threatened the life of an American, and the president and this administration, working with some very brave men and women in the military, acted accordingly. QUESTION: And can you tell us what the president's thinking was in not making any public comment on the episode until after it was over? GIBBS: Yes. I was a little reticent to talk about this during the activities, but a little bit less so now. GIBBS: You know, I think that -- I think, obviously, the captain has understood -- well, they certainly, I think, understand they might have bitten off a lot more than they could chew, but I think that we did not want to have the president's image unduly -- or his words make what happened on Sunday harder to accomplish, in protecting an American life and protecting the lives of the crew. I think what was important throughout this process was that the president was actively engaged, I think, as many of you saw from the timeline that we put out yesterday, to have you better understand some of his activities even if we were more reticent to speak about them at the time. QUESTION: Two quick questions, please, on piracy? GIBBS: Yes. QUESTION: Number one, you said the president intends to work to sustain international cooperation and coordination. Can you give us some examples of what he plans to do? And is this a problem -- as we know, it has been around for years -- (OFF-MIKE) the fact that the president has had so much else on his plate that it was a distraction until now, for something for him to deal with? 16:19:04 GIBBS: Well, let me start with the second part. I think, whenever an American is taken -- is held hostage by something like this, I don't think the president would term this a "distraction." And I think, obviously, you can see, from the activities that he was involved in over the course of the past several days, that it certainly was no less important than anything that he has to deal with on a daily basis. The protecting of an American life certainly is of most importance to him. 16:19:49 Look, in terms of your first question, I think -- and I think that this is true with the Department of Defense; I think it is true with all countries that are using the shipping lanes in and around the Horn of Africa and places nearby, to work with and also in conjunction with the commercial operators to ensure better coordination, to ensure that better communication happens, related to potential acts that could be out there, that there's coordination and communication surrounding different threats and different areas, and as I said, if there are events that do happen, that actions are taken quickly to ensure that those that are trying to commit these types of acts are charged and ultimately brought to justice. 16:20:39 I think -- I think all of that is important. There has been an interagency maritime working group that I know has thought about this and is working on other activities that can be undertaken in conjunction with -- with our friends and allies to ensure safety. Obviously, it's a -- I mean, this was a ship trying to get food aid to Africa. GIBBS: So there are -- it's undertaking an important activity and we want to ensure its safe and secure. QUESTION: Two different issues, if I may? Kirk (ph) thinks the president was a little premature, today, in declaring a kind of victory in this thing, especially in light of China's announcement over the weekend that it's purchase of U.S. Treasuries is something like 8 percent in the first quarter of what they were a year ago. Are we in danger of running up against a kind of limit on the national Mastercard because of the stimulus spending? And is that something that's... 16:21:50 GIBBS: Let's understand the composition of "national debt" related to the amount of money that's been promised as part of stimulus is minuscule at best. The president has said repeatedly that he would take the actions necessary to stimulate this economy from recession to recovery. And understand, Wendell (ph), that the debt is only going to get far worse if the economy continues to languish at the -- at the level that it is now. The debt is not going to get better if the economy contracts 6 or so percent each quarter. The president understood that and took direct and decisive action to ensure that we're taking the steps necessary to move it to recovery. Secondly, let's understand that this president has recognized what hasn't been recognized in a long time in Washington. And that is: Continuing to simply put down the Mastercard, the Visa, the Discovery card, the American Express and apply for all new cards under each of those names is not sustainable in the long term. It's not -- it's not a policy that's going to grow us out of the troubles that we're in. That's why he speaks to the long-term needs of our economy. And that's why the budget that he sent to Capitol Hill, that Capitol Hill passed, cuts the budget deficit in half in four years. All are very important -- important things to have done. QUESTION: On the other issue, can I get you to weigh into this dispute between the vice president and Karl Rove on whether Mr. Biden scolded former President Bush? 16:23:36 GIBBS: Whether he scolded former President Bush? I'm not sure that I'm going to come out as the middle of the road arbiter on such a dispute. You know, I think that -- I will leave it at that. Yes, sir? QUESTION: Back to the pirates for a second. QUESTION: Despite the timeline that you guys put out yesterday, I'm still a little fuzzy on exactly -- on -- on the president's role. what the president knew. Did the president -- did the military provide the president with details about the kind of rescue they wanted to -- they were going to do if they got the chance? Did he review it? Did he -- did he say, "Yes, I like that"? Or, no, he didn't? And was there ever a moment prior -- we know the two authorizations that he gave, but was there ever a moment prior to those two authorization where the military asked for something and the president urged patience or urged them to wait, and said, "No, we should" -- "we should" -- you know, "before we act, we should give more time for them to give up"? 16:24:39 GIBBS: Let me check on the second one. I know that leading up to both Friday and Saturday there was, as you know, still active discussions going on to seek the release of the captain. So I can certainly look at the second one. Repeat for your -- to me, your first one. QUESTION: The first one was, how much did he know about their -- what the rescue would have looked like if -- you know, we've sort of been told that he gave a general kind of, you know... 16:25:17 GIBBS: Well, look, I -- I think the president is -- is -- the president gives an order, as he did, to ensure whatever actions are necessary to protect the safety and security of an American. And the president has great trust in those that carry out his orders. And I think that that trust is well-founded after seeing the results of -- of what happened that led to the release. QUESTION: So is that a no, he didn't know the details? GIBBS: I'm... QUESTION: Or does that simply mean... GIBBS: I'm going to give a... QUESTION: ... I'm going to remain fuzzy? GIBBS: I'm going to give a -- sort of a blanket answer and not get into all of the operational details. QUESTION: Robert, the pirates are holding many hostages from other countries. And I'm wondering, how concerned is the president, if at all, that the successful operation that released Captain Phillips will result in some sort of retaliatory act that could endanger the lives of other hostages who aren't Americans. And is he talking to leaders of other countries. (inaudible) there are some German hostages, maybe some French. What's the concern there? GIBBS: I know there are staff level discussions about policy. I don't know whether there's a reaching out to individual governments, and I can certainly look into -- look into that. And I'm certainly not an expert on all of these matters. I did notice comments today from the Department of Defense that would seem on the other side of that, which is I think -- I think there's at least a small group in Somalia that knows that their actions have serious consequences. And that, in and of itself, though not -- I don't want to say that's in any sort of a complete solution -- but whether or not that could be -- I think that could be a deterrent in the future. People know that there are consequences to what they do. QUESTION: Robert, back to tomorrow's schedule. Can you describe for us the plans for Bo's debut? (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: I've now run the full gamut. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) GIBBS: The -- you may have noticed the music in the background. That's merely a sound check for tomorrow's activities. I will admit I know that he will arrive tomorrow. And I think there will be an opportunity for you all to get a chance to see the new dog and... QUESTION: You know, Barney bit a reporter. GIBBS: And I've been training him throughout the morning. QUESTION: He's not here now? 16:28:26 GIBBS: I do not believe he's on the side. I think he's -- I can't imagine what he would do out in the front yard with 5,000 kids. But you'll be here tomorrow and you'll get a chance to see him with his new owners. QUESTION: Is that all of the new owners -- the entire family? GIBBS: I believe that's the case. QUESTION: What time is that? GIBBS: I don't have that with me, but I will -- I'm sure that will be in tomorrow's guidance. QUESTION: Thanks, Robert. I had a question off Somalia (ph), so I first wanted to just get a clarification on something you said about why the president didn't speak out on this earlier. You said that would make it harder to accomplish protecting an American life. And I did want to ask you about Swat Valley. That's important. But could you clarify what you meant by that? GIBBS: Well, let me -- and that's a good question, because I don't want to be real oblique. I think it was important -- I mean, look, I got many questions about whether or not he'd made calls, whether we were going to say something directly. And I think there were -- was advice given not to -- not to take -- not to have somebody that had an American captive and make this even -- even potentially more dangerous by putting the president out there for captives to see. I think what was important was that the president, you know, was actively involved in decisions around this, was actively involved in keeping up to date and aware of the situation, and -- and made decisions accordingly. QUESTION: The concern would be that by recognizing or, I don't know, appearing publicly (inaudible), you're validating them or giving them too much recognition? 16:30:22 GIBBS: Well, I think you could be giving them too much recognition. You could -- in many ways, you could be upping the ante a bit on the potential of what the pirates held. The president always knew and always acted understanding that the protection and security of the captain was always the primary goal of any of his decisions or any of his actions. And that's -- that's why he acted the way he did. QUESTION: Real quickly, on Swat Valley, President Zardari today signed the -- the deal implementing sharia law in that -- in that province or region. What's the administration's reaction to that? Were you guys involved during this period where President Zardari was going back and forth, telling him, either way, don't sign it or... GIBBS: I -- I haven't seen that before I came out here. But let me get NSC to pull something for you on (inaudible). QUESTION: Did you have a position on it before... GIBBS: Let me get NSC to -- I'll take one more. QUESTION: (inaudible) a couple clean-ups on the pirate thing. Big picture: Is it right to say that the administration is now engaging in serious consideration of expanding or revising the -- how -- U.S. policy toward pirates? And are you looking at a multilateral approach, or just a national approach? And it looks like to say I'm asking -- any decision on how the fourth pirate is going to be charged? And are you also reviewing Somalian policy as an aspect of this? 16:32:00 GIBBS: As it relates to the fourth pirate, I would point you to the Department of Justice as the appropriate agency to deal with that. I think it's important to understand that the -- the group that the president had assembled to work on these issues was not stood up upon the news, but was actively involved in looking at this and other issues. You know, this region of the world has -- has struggled with and then been a challenge to this country for quite some time. The issues aren't new. 16:33:22 But I think the president and this administration are certainly focused on ensuring that we are doing all that we can, that we are doing all we can in conjunction with our international partners and allies to coordinate and communicate effectively, to coordinate that security, to ensure the safety of Americans as well as -- as others that are using this area for shipping, and that the president and the administration want to continue to seek ways, as I said, to ensure that greater efforts are brought to bring those to justice that are involved in these acts and to work with others and discuss actively how best to interdict acts of piracy that are going on, or will go on in the future. GIBBS: Thanks, guys. 16:33:53 walk off
STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
STATE DEPARTMENT REGULAR DAILY PRESS BRIEFING MS. PSAKI: Hello. QUESTION: Hey. QUESTION: Hello. MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. The reason we're doing this briefing is because we have a limited number of briefings between now and the New Year, so we just wanted to provide an opportunity. But we certainly don't have to make this a marathon. I leave that up to all of you. I don't have anything at the top. QUESTION: All right. Let's make it a sprint. MS. PSAKI: Okay. That means I'll talk fast. I think that's technically what that means. (Laughter.) QUESTION: Okay. We have - then I'll talk fast as well. MS. PSAKI: Okay. QUESTION: I just have - open with a logistical question -- MS. PSAKI: Yes. QUESTION: -- and that is: Has the date been set for the migration talks with the Cubans that -- MS. PSAKI: It has not yet been set. We're still working on finalizing the date. QUESTION: Do you expect that it will - that date will be - have been set before the holiday - before the end of the - I don't know, the end of the year? MS. PSAKI: We're certainly working on it and it will definitely be in January. But I can't make a prediction on whether it will be set by the end of the year. QUESTION: Can I just follow up? MS. PSAKI: Any more on Cuba? Just to -- QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah. It's on Cuba, all right? MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, on Cuba. QUESTION: Because the President said that whatever sanctions is codified into law and so on, could you explain to us how would the -- MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about North Korea or Cuba? QUESTION: Cuba. I'm sorry. Was that North Korea? MS. PSAKI: He was talking about Cuba. QUESTION: Cuba. Yes. That's what I'm saying. MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. Sorry. QUESTION: I'm talking about the lifting of the sanctions, okay. MS. PSAKI: Yes. QUESTION: So it is - my question is focused on what would be the mechanism to lift the sanctions, because it is apparently, as he said, it is codified into law -- MS. PSAKI: Well -- QUESTION: -- or in the law? MS. PSAKI: -- there are a number of different components of it, many of which are outlined in the fact sheet we put out the other day. There are a number of new regulations that would need to be put in place that Treasury and the Commerce Department will be working on over the course of the coming weeks. So that is in large part how a number of the restrictions that will be eased, that were referenced in the factsheet would be eased, Said. QUESTION: Can I ask one real quick one? MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: As you're aware, a Turkish court has issued an arrest warrant for the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are accused of - by Erdogan of trying to overthrow his government. Are you aware of the report? Do you have any views on the report itself? Has the Turkish Government asked the U.S. Government for extradition? And if it did, would the U.S. Government extradite Mr. Gulen? MS. PSAKI: We have seen the reports. As a matter of longstanding policy, the Department of State does not comment on pending extradition requests or confirm or deny that an extradition request has been made. More specifically, for more specifics, I'd certainly refer you to the Turkish Government. QUESTION: And do you have any view on the broader question of whether the Turkish Government or the Turkish courts are using the legal system to suppress opposition or dissent in Turkey? MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking there are concerns we have expressed in the past. I don't have any specific comment on this particular case beyond what I've offered. QUESTION: Okay. MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Cuba? Okay. New topic. QUESTION: North Korea. MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that the U.S. is considering putting North Korea back on the terror list as one of the options of retaliation? MS. PSAKI: Well, as the President outlined in his press conference, we, of course, reserve the right to use all necessary means - diplomatic, informational, military, and economic as appropriate and as consistent with domestic and international law - in order to protect and defend our nation, our allies, and our interests. But we're not going to outline more specifics beyond that at this point in time. QUESTION: Well -- MS. PSAKI: North Korea? QUESTION: -- but on those same - yeah, just along those same lines. You've seen letters - a letter, I would think, from Senator Menendez on this very issue to the Secretary. MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that letter. No. QUESTION: Well, he basically -- MS. PSAKI: To the State Department? QUESTION: To the Secretary, saying that North Korea should be put back on the state sponsors list because of this hack. And I'm just curious: When the Bush Administration delisted North Korea, it didn't remove any sanctions. They - the sanctions stayed in place. And I'm wondering if putting them back on the list would have any practical punitive effect. Can you -- MS. PSAKI: I don't have that information in front of me. I'm happy to talk to our team and see if, broadly speaking, there are more specifics we can offer. QUESTION: All right. And the other thing: Does the State Department - does the Secretary agree with the President's assessment that Sony made a mistake in pulling this film? MS. PSAKI: He does. Certainly, he believes that freedom of speech and expression is something that we should support broadly, and certainly, he agrees with the President's assessment. QUESTION: And given the fact that this happened - well, this happened here in the United States, does - is there a concern in this building about what the precedent that the move that Sony made, that that precedent might set in countries - in other countries around the world, the self-censorship? MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the way we view it is that the United States Government will continue to make every effort to set the example that we're not going to be in the crouch or the fear position when it comes to threats from North Korea. We believe that freedom of speech and expression should be uphold across the board. Obviously, individual companies make their own decisions, but we believe that those values should be respected and we'll continue to set that precedent. QUESTION: Okay. And then just to put the final dot on this to get it out - did Danny Russel, Bob King, or anyone else in the Department, to your knowledge, see this movie, screen it before - in the timeframe that the reports that say that they did have suggested? MS. PSAKI: To the best of our knowledge, no one from the State Department viewed the movie. QUESTION: Can you say specifically that the two people who were mentioned in these reports - Mr. Russel -- MS. PSAKI: Did not view the movie? Yes. Neither of them viewed the movie. QUESTION: Neither of them viewed the movie. Do you know why Sony, these emails that were - that this - that these stories were drawn from might have come to the conclusion that - I mean, was there some kind of misunderstanding that there -- MS. PSAKI: Well, there seem to be two different accounts, Matt. One was - well, given it's two individuals, right? QUESTION: Right. MS. PSAKI: One was that Assistant Secretary Russel had been in contact with Sony executives. He had been. That's certainly part of normal process here about what's happening in the world. He certainly is an expert on issues related to Asia. Secondarily, there were reports of a secondary conversation being passed on from Bob King. That wasn't direct contact with Sony. I don't have any confirmation of the details of the secondary account. QUESTION: Okay. Well, then in the primary account of Assistant Secretary Russel, was there anything in the exchange that he had with the Sony executives that could have been misinterpreted by the Sony - or misinterpreted by them to say that he had seen it. Like, did he get a copy of the script, a plot synopsis, anything about the content of the film? MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to go into more details about their conversation, Matt. But obviously, Assistant Secretary Russel talks about a range of issues as they're related to Asia with a range of private sector officials. He didn't sign off on a movie, didn't sign off on content. We don't do that. So I'm not sure that piece could be misconstrued. QUESTION: Okay. So he did - so in addition to not having seen the film, he did not read a synopsis or a script or get any kind of plot breakdown? MS. PSAKI: I don't have more details, Matt, but he had a broad conversation with executives, which is part of - par for the course and something we do regularly. Go ahead. QUESTION: Can we change topic? MS. PSAKI: Well, let's finish North Korea. QUESTION: Can I finish North -- MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: I had a - I was going to ask the same question about the re-listing, and what I want to know is, tell us a little bit about the process. How long would it take if they were to be re-listed? MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to get into a hypothetical. Obviously, we're going through -- QUESTION: I mean, not commenting on whether they will be or they won't be. What is the process for re-listing a country? How long does it take? MS. PSAKI: I'm sure that's information that's publicly available, Indira, and we can pull it up for you and provide it to other people in the bullpen as well. QUESTION: Did the Japanese Government consult U.S. Government -- MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: -- with regards to the pulling the movie after the terror - after the terror threat? Did the Japanese Government ask the U.S. Government something about that? MS. PSAKI: I'm sorry, can you repeat your question one more time? QUESTION: Did the Japanese Government consult it with the U.S. Government with regard to pulling the movie after the terror threat? Because there is abduction issue. So did Japanese Government ask or talk to some U.S. officials? MS. PSAKI: I don't have any details on that. Go ahead. QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask a similar question. Did you consult with them or with any, like, South Koreans, Russians or China about this issue? MS. PSAKI: About the movie? QUESTION: About the movie, right. MS. PSAKI: Í'm not aware of those conversations taking place. QUESTION: What about -- QUESTION: President Obama mentioned that the Sony Pictures decision is a mistake. Could you share his idea, his intention with us? What does it mean, a mistake? Then what the Sony Pictures should do in this context? MS. PSAKI: I'm going to let the President's words speak for themselves. I think I already just answered a question to Matt about our belief that freedom of speech and expression is a value that everyone should uphold. Go ahead. QUESTION: The President in his news conference said there was no information that - no indication that another company - country was acting along with North Korea on this threat. Do you have information indicating whether or not that portion of the investigation has closed, or is it still open and is there a possibility that investigators are considering whether there might have been additional involvement? MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the FBI for that question. I think the President spoke to that because obviously - and it's almost disproving a negative, which I'm not going to do from the podium. We don't have evidence, as the President said, of other countries' involvements. And if there is a question about whether there's more to the investigation, I'd point you to the FBI. QUESTION: Jen, sorry, I don't know if you already addressed this or not. MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. QUESTION: But the President said that he wishes that Sony had asked him first about this. I'm curious as to how that comports with previous Administration statements of the government not taking any role in this at all. The President clearly wishes that the government had taken a stronger role. MS. PSAKI: I don't think that's exactly what he said, Elliot. I think -- QUESTION: He says he wishes that Sony had talked to him first. MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to parse the President's words. I think he made clear that his view is that they made a mistake in pulling the movie down. That's a different question than what you're asking. We are not involved in signing off in the content of movies. We're not in the business of that. But we believe that freedom of speech and expression is something that everybody should not just have as a value, but should be acting on. And I think that's what he was expressing through his views. QUESTION: Does the President or does the Administration then believe that the Sony decision was antithetical to freedom of speech and expression? MS. PSAKI: I think we'll leave it at what I've already said and the President's already said. Go ahead. QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue? MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: On Wednesday, an EU court suggested that Hamas should be taken off the terror list. MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that? MS. PSAKI: I spoke to it the other day when it happened. Do we have any more on this issue? QUESTION: Okay. Can I follow up a little bit on -- MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. QUESTION: -- on the Palestinian issue? What is happening now as far as the Palestinian proposal? Are you doing anything? Are you talking to the Europeans? Are you talking to the French? Are you talking to the Palestinians? What is going on now as far as -- MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke to this yesterday, Said. I don't have anything new to add to that. QUESTION: I understand. But - okay. So there is nothing that is ongoing between now to -- MS. PSAKI: I spoke about how it was ongoing yesterday. So I'd point you to what I said yesterday. Go ahead in the back. Or do we have any more on that question? Go ahead. QUESTION: Hi, Jen. I wanted to change the subject here, if I may. MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: Jen Vasquez with NBC local. Regarding Estefania Isaias, the daughter of the fugitive bankers from Ecuador, I wanted to know how many times has Senator Menendez - or did he reach out to the State Department on their behalf? MS. PSAKI: I know we provided a comment, I believe, to your station, which I'm happy to reiterate. Let me see if I just have it here. Well, the State Department annually receives more than 100,000 consular inquiries from Congress alone. It's not uncommon for these requests to be received through the Office of the Secretary, and we give great attention to every congressional inquiry, reviewing each on its individual merits no matter where it's received. I can't confirm specifics of any individual visa cases, but visas - applications are adjudicated under standards established by U.S. law and regulations, which certainly would have been the case here as well. QUESTION: Has the FBI contacted any State Department officials or questioned them regarding this case? MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more information on that. I'd point you to the FBI. Go ahead. QUESTION: I have two questions that are human rights related -- MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: -- on different countries. The first one is Kenya. MS. PSAKI: Okay. QUESTION: President Kenyatta today signed an antiterrorism bill that imposes new restrictions on the media. And the measure - under the measure, media organizations are restricted in how they can report on security issues. Violators can face fines or jail sentences. Has - does the State Department have any reaction to these restrictions? And then secondly, if there is a belief that these restrictions are overbearing, has or will the U.S. make any effort to express those concerns to the Kenyan Government? MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we firmly - the United States is firmly committed to supporting Kenya's efforts to defeat al-Shabaab and ensure the security of its citizens. We note, as you mentioned, there was legislation approved today designed to increase Kenya's ability to prevent and defeat terrorism. However, we're disappointed that such important legislation was not given the proper time for a necessary dialogue and informed debate, and are concerned about provisions that appear to limit freedom of assembly and media, and access to asylum for refugees. We would urge the Kenyan Government to ensure that its counterterrorism efforts respect the rights of the Kenyan people and live up to the Kenyan constitution and rule of law, and certainly, that's something we're expressing to them directly as well. QUESTION: And on a different topic, has the State Department had any initial contact with Peter Han, the Korean American aid worker who was arrested in China and is facing embezzlement and counterfeiting charges? MS. PSAKI: I think I have something on this. Let's see. Peter Hahn is who you asked about, correct? Yes? QUESTION: Mm-hmm. MS. PSAKI: We can confirm the arrest of U.S. citizen Peter Hahn in the Yanbian autonomous region of northeast China. We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously and stand ready to provide consular services. A consular officer visited Mr. Hahn in jail on December 19th, and the U.S. consulate is providing all possible consular assistance. Beyond that, I would refer you to Chinese authorities for any additional information. QUESTION: Which consulate is that? MS. PSAKI: Shenyang. QUESTION: Can I ask you about the denial of an American scholar entering into Egypt? MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: Okay, Michele Dunne was denied entry into Egypt last week. Have you raised this issue with the Egyptian Government? MS. PSAKI: Well, we are disappointed at the government in Egypt's decision to deny entry to Ms. Dunne, a well-regarded scholar of Egyptian affairs. We have raised her case with the Government of Egypt, and it is our understanding that she is not banned from entering the country. We strongly support the freedom of movement and freedom of inquiry for researchers and scholars. We think discouraging travel to Egypt sends exactly the wrong signal to the international community. QUESTION: So you don't believe it's a visa issue, as the Egyptians claim? It's not a visa issue? MS. PSAKI: I don't have more details than what I've just offered. QUESTION: Because she was going back and forth (inaudible). MS. PSAKI: She's not banned from, as I mentioned, from entering the country. So I don't have more details on what's happened over the last few days. QUESTION: Do you think that the Egyptians are trying to intimidate American or American Egyptian scholars? MS. PSAKI: I think I just expressed what I have to express on this. QUESTION: Jen, on Iran, Acting Deputy Secretary Sherman is back now, correct? MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: Do - have you been able to - is there any kind of a readout from these - this last round of talks, the ones in Geneva? And has there been a date set for the resumption of the - for the next round, which are supposed to be in Oman sometime in January? MS. PSAKI: All of the meetings in Geneva were useful, including the bilateral and P5+1 meetings. There's not more of a readout we're going to offer than that. It's obviously set in a series of meetings. Further meetings will take place in mid-January. In terms of the exact dates, I think that's still being finalized. QUESTION: Okay. So the readout - is it a one-word readout? Useful? MS. PSAKI: It's a short readout. There are many meetings that will take place between now and the deadline, Matt. QUESTION: Well, I understand. But "useful," I mean, that doesn't mean anything, right? MS. PSAKI: We're not offering more specific details. QUESTION: Can you at least say - is there - I mean, the fact that there's another round planned, can you at least say that the Geneva round produced enough of something to warrant another round? MS. PSAKI: Well, we expected there'd be another round planned, and there is one. So this is an ongoing discussion and I don't think we're going to give extensive readouts after every round. QUESTION: Well, I'm not asking for extensive. I'm just asking for something that actually means something. MS. PSAKI: Well, we'll see if we have more to offer in January. Go ahead, Elliot. QUESTION: Can I ask a few questions on Cuba? MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: The President, during his press conference, alluded to this idea that economic opening will eventually, further down the road, translate into a kind of opening of the political space as well. First, would you say that's a fair characterization? MS. PSAKI: Yes, we agree with that, I'm sure you're not surprised to hear. QUESTION: No, I'm not. But I mean, wouldn't you say the historical record in this regard is rather mixed? There have been a lot of countries that the U.S. engages with economically but remain very repressive in their practices domestically. MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our view on Cuba - and as we like to say, all countries are different - but our view here is that right now civil society is incredibly repressed, there isn't economic opportunity, there isn't internet access or connectivity. These are all issues that are making it more difficult for people in the country to be able to express themselves, to have more freedom. And so easing many of these economic restrictions we do think will have an impact on the ability of civil society groups to function in a better and more productive way. QUESTION: What is to stop a repressive regime to limit those - the freedoms once the infrastructure is up and running, just like regimes do in China or Vietnam or elsewhere? MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we don't see this as a one-step process. This is going to be an ongoing discussion. As you heard Roberta Jacobson say yesterday, a human rights dialogue will certainly be a part of our important agenda moving forward with Cuba. And we think this is the beginning of a process; far from the end. There are many more restrictions that could be eased. Also, as you know, the embargo is not something that we can unilaterally ease. So there are certainly steps that they'll need to take in order to send the message to members of Congress and others that they've done what's necessary. QUESTION: Last one, just - I mean, speaking of members of Congress, Senator Rubio in his press conference after the policy was announced, raised the concern that economic opening would actually be counterproductive because U.S. interests investing in north - in Cuba, excuse me - would result in kind of a indirect lobby in the U.S. for the status quo. And he raised the example of companies asking Congress to hold back on action against China with regard to the Hong Kong protests because they had interests in China. How would you respond to that? MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we've had the same broken policy in Cuba for more than 50 years that isn't working. The economic policies we've had toward Cuba are not working. And our view is that these changes are in the best interest of civil society and the best interest of the Cuban people. That's going to take some time, but we would simply disagree on the substance of that point. QUESTION: That brings up - it raises an interesting point. Are you aware of the U.S. Government ever holding back on criticism of a country for human rights or anything else at the request of a private company? MS. PSAKI: No. I wasn't trying to validate that question. I'm just giving an answer on Cuba. QUESTION: All right. Specifically on the - Hong Kong and China, this building and the White House were pretty outspoken about the situation in Hong Kong, as least as it related to allowing - at least as it related to you guys saying that the - that Beijing should not interfere. Did any - are you aware of any company asking you to hold back on statements in that specific instance? MS. PSAKI: No, I'm not, and - nor am I aware of that impacting, even if it had happened. QUESTION: And - right. Would you, if there was such a request from -- MS. PSAKI: No, we wouldn't. QUESTION: All right. QUESTION: One more -- MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: -- unrelated to this, and I apologize if you addressed this. MS. PSAKI: Sure, it's okay. QUESTION: I've been in and out. Is the U.S. Government or is the State Department considering putting North Korea back on the state sponsors -- MS. PSAKI: We did discuss that. QUESTION: And are you? MS. PSAKI: I - as the President did during the press conference, I made clear we have a range of options at our disposal. I'm not going to outline those more specifically from here. QUESTION: Okay. MS. PSAKI: All right. Oh, Abby. Go ahead. QUESTION: WikiLeaks posted a report about the limited value of high - military strikes on high-value targets, specifically pointing to military strikes on the Taliban and al-Qaida as not having the desired effect. Do you have any comment on that or -- MS. PSAKI: I haven't seen that report. My bet is it's most appropriately directed to DOD, but we can check it out if you'd like. All right. QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more. MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. QUESTION: I just wanted to know if you have any reaction to the Russians inviting - or President Putin inviting Kim Jong-un to Russia on the day that the Administration or the FBI announced that it believes that Kim Jong-un's government was responsible for this hack? MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, one, obviously, Russia has been an important partner with the United States as it relates to North Korea. That continues to be the case. I don't have more details on their agenda, but I don't think we're drawing a connection between the timing of their invitation. QUESTION: Are you concerned that the new sanctions may actually hinder that cooperation that you have with Russia? MS. PSAKI: Which new sanctions? QUESTION: I mean, there are sanctions that are proposed against Russia. MS. PSAKI: The new - which ones? We didn't do - announce any new ones, but -- QUESTION: I think this last week you did, didn't you? MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure what your question is. Keep going. QUESTION: It's okay. MS. PSAKI: Are you sure? QUESTION: I'm saying that - are you concerned that this cooperation that you talked about with Russia regarding North Korea and so on -- MS. PSAKI: Okay, sorry. No, Said, as I think has been the case for several months now, there are areas where we have continued to work together on, including Iran and the nuclear negotiations, and North Korea and our concerns - shared concerns about their threats to the region and their rhetoric, and that's continued to be the case here as well. QUESTION: Jen, one more just to clarify. MS. PSAKI: Sure. QUESTION: Has the Secretary had any calls with counterparts in China or Japan on this issue? Has that already been addressed or -- MS. PSAKI: I can say, broadly speaking, that we have been - the Administration has reached out to our Five Party partners: Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia. I'm not going to get into the level of those calls at this point. QUESTION: About? MS. PSAKI: About the announcement this morning. QUESTION: The hack? MS. PSAKI: Yes. QUESTION: Can you say when that was, when that reaching out to those -- MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get into the specifics for each one and the timing. Okay. Thanks, everyone. QUESTION: Thank you. (The briefing was concluded at 3:20 p.m.)
APTN 2330 PRIME NEWS AMERICAS
AP-APTN-2330 Americas L Prime News-Final Sunday, 18 April 2010 Americas L Prime News World Ash Travel 2 04:53 Part No Access UK/CNNi/RTE/Al Jazeera English WRAP Airlines in test flights, travel chaos; Frankfurt Airport, UK ministers Iceland Volcano 03:11 Part Iceland/ Part UK/RTE/CNNi/Al Jazeera English REPLAY Aerials of volcano, ground shots, volcanologist comment ++Venezuela Killing 02:30 No Access Venezuela NEW Fmr lightweight boxing champ Valero held on susp of killing wife Cuba Opposition 01:41 AP Clients Only REPLAY Security agents deny 'Ladies in White' the right to protest Cuba Cigar 01:03 AP Clients Only FILE Tributes paid to cigar legend Robaina, who died at 91 +Cyprus Results 3 03:36 AP Clients Only WRAP Eroglu claims win, supporters, reax; Talat reax ADDS more reax Malta Italy Pope 03:00 AP Clients Only REPLAY Pontiff meets youth at end of Malta visit; returns to Rome B-u-l-l-e-t-i-n begins at 2330 GMT. APEX 04-18-10 1956EDT -----------End of rundown----------- AP-APTN-2330: World Ash Travel 2 Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:World Ash Travel 2- WRAP Airlines in test flights, travel chaos; Frankfurt Airport, UK ministers LENGTH: 04:53 FIRST RUN: 2330 RESTRICTIONS: Part No Access UK/CNNi/RTE/Al Jazeera English TYPE: English/German/Natsound SOURCE: VARIOUS STORY NUMBER: 643360 DATELINE: Various - 18 Apr 2010 LENGTH: 04:53 SKY - NO ACCESS UK/CNNI/RTE/AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY RTL - NO ACCESS GERMANY, AUSTRIA (EXCEPT: INFOSCREEN, ATV+), GERMAN-SPEAKING SWITZERLAND (EXCEPT: TELEZUERI), LUXEMBOURG AND ALTO ADIGE ARD POOL - AP CLIENTS ONLY SHOTLIST (FIRST RUN 1830 NORTH AMERICA PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY Brussels, Belgium 1. News conference with European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas and Diego Lopez Garrido, Secretary of State for the European Union in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation 2. SOUNDBITE: (English) Siim Kallas, European Union Transport Commissioner: "This is clear also, that this is not sustainable. So we cannot go ahead and just wait until the ash cloud will disappear." 3. Wide of news conference 4. SOUNDBITE: (English) Diego Lopez Garrido, Secretary of State for the European Union in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation: "(The current forecast tell us that) the ash cloud is moving slightly to the northeast and probably tomorrow there will be half of EU territory influenced by this ash cloud. And from this perspective the forecast is that there will be half of the flights possibly operating in Europe." (FIRST RUN 1830 NORTH AMERICA PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY Berlin, Germany 5. Wide of Air Berlin planes parked on tarmac at Tegel airport 6. Plane taxiing towards runway 7. Wide of plane taking off 8. Wide of plane in the air (FIRST RUN 1830 NORTH AMERICA PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ARD POOL - AP CLIENTS ONLY Berlin, Germany 9. Pan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in car, driving through gate of Chancellery 10. Wide of cars seen through gate (FIRST RUN 1830 NORTH AMERICA PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) RTL - NO ACCESS GERMANY, AUSTRIA (EXCEPT: INFOSCREEN, ATV+), GERMAN-SPEAKING SWITZERLAND (EXCEPT: TELEZUERI), LUXEMBOURG AND ALTO ADIGE 11. Wide of Frankfurt airport departure hall 12. SOUNDBITE: (German) Klaus Walther, Lufthansa spokesman: "With all the flights, also with the flights of other airlines, there were no (problematic) findings whatsoever in the planes. The planes had no dust deposits in the engines, there was no damage in the body shell, also the pilot heads have not been damaged. This information should be taken into account by the politicians." (FIRST RUN 1830 NORTH AMERICA PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) AP Television - AP Clients ONLY Dulles, Virginia, USA 13. Arrivals information board at Dulles International Airport 14. Pan across board showing flights from London either cancelled or delayed 15. Pan left from Vienna resident Colleen Bevan and her husband talking to stranded traveller 16. SOUNDBITE: (English) Colleen Bevan, local resident offering aid to stranded travellers, Vox pop: "We live in Vienna, which is maybe 20 minutes away from the airport and we thought that there might be some Europeans stranded at the airport and we have two spare bedrooms, so we thought we'd come out and see if we can help anybody out and give them a place to stay or a shower. We can bring them back quickly because we live so close if they can get a flight out." 17. Empty British Airways counter, pull out to wide 18. Pan across deserted British Airways check-in area (FIRST RUN 2130 NEWS UPDATE - 18 APRIL 2010) AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY Frankfurt, Germany 19. Plane taking off 20. Group of men watching planes 21. Plane landing (FIRST RUN 2130 NEWS UPDATE - 18 APRIL 2010) SKY - NO ACCESS UK/RTE/CNNi/AL JAZEERA ENGLISH London, UK 22. Wide of (from left to right) British Cabinet Office Minister Leader Tessa Jowell, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson, Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis and Security Minister Lord Alan West walking out of number 10 Downing Street after meeting 23. SOUNDBITE: (English) Lord Andrew Adonis, British Transport Minister: "For the next 24 hours there will be no flights. They will be giving us a further forecast in the morning and on that basis we will make further information available." 24. Cutaway of ministers 25. SOUNDBITE: (English) Lord Andrew Adonis, British Transport Minister: "The international regulators are considering all of the evidence that has been put forward, including the evidence from the KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) test flight. Test flights are taking place in Britain today, all of that will be fed into the regulators, who will be considering this over the next 24 hours and looking in particular whether it's possible to establish safe flight paths through the ash cloud as it currently exists and is forecast for the period ahead." 26. Cutaway of ministers 27. SOUNDBITE: (English) Lord Peter Mandelson, British Business Secretary: "We need to look at every single logistical option for getting our people back home and that's what we are going to do. Either from outside Europe back onto the continent and then over the channel - either from Spanish or French ports - and we've got to look at commercial, as well as Royal Navy and amphibious capacity to help us in this task." 28. Wide of briefing STORYLINE Major airlines that sent test flights into European air space found no damage on Sunday from the volcanic ash that has paralyzed aviation over the continent, raising pressure on governments to ease restrictions that have thrown global travel and commerce into chaos. Is it safe to fly yet? Airline officials and some pilots say the passengerless test flights show that it is. Meteorologists warn that the skies over Europe remain unstable from an Icelandic volcano that continues to spew ash capable of knocking out jet engines. European Union officials said air traffic could return to half its normal level on Monday if the dense cloud begins to dissipate. Germany allowed some flights to resume. Eighty percent of European airspace remained closed for a devastating fourth day on Sunday, with only 4,000 of the normal 20,000-flight schedule in the air, said Brian Flynn, deputy head of operations for Eurocontrol, which supports the air traffic control network across the European Union's 27 states. The test flights highlighted a lack of consensus on when to reopen the skies. The microscopic but potentially menacing volcanic grit began closing airports from Ireland to Bulgaria on Thursday, stranding countless passengers and leaving cargo rotting in warehouses. "This is not sustainable. We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters at the European capital in Brussels. KLM Royal Dutch airlines, the national German carrier Lufthansa, Air France and several regional airlines sent up test flights, probing altitudes where the cloud of ash has wafted over Europe since the volcano turned active on Wednesday. British Airways planned an evening flight over the Atlantic from Heathrow, one of Europe's busiest hubs. None of the pilots reported problems, and the aircraft underwent detailed inspections for damage to the engines and frame. "With all the flights, also with the flights of other airlines, there were no (problematic) findings whatsoever in the planes," said Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther. "The planes had no dust deposits in the engines, there was no damage in the body shell, also the pilot heads have not been damaged. This information should be taken into account by the politicians," he added. Civil aviation authorities in each country must decide whether to resume commercial traffic, but the 27-nation EU said if weather forecasts are correct it expected half its flights to operate normally on Monday. While it was still unclear how the dust would affect jet engines, the EU said it was encouraged by promising weather predictions, at least for the next 24 hours. "Probably tomorrow there will be half of EU territory influenced by this ash cloud and... the forecast is that there will be half of the flights possibly operating in Europe," said Diego Lopez Garrido, state secretary for EU affairs for Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency. He did not provide details about which flights might resume. France's transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, said there will be a meeting on Monday of European ministers affected by the crisis to coordinate efforts to reopen airspace. Meanwhile in London it was announced late on Sunday that there would continue to be no flights in the UK until at least Monday evening. "They will be giving us a further forecast in the morning and on that basis we will make further information available," British Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis told UK broadcaster Sky. The comments came after a high level meeting of government ministers in the capital. Adonis said international regulators were continuing to analyse evidence from a number of test flights including several in Britain. Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson said the government was continuing to look at new ways to help the estimated 150-thousand Britons stranded abroad by the UK flights ban. "We need to look at every single logistical option for getting our people back home and that's what we are going to do," Mandelson said, raising the possibility of an involvement by the Royal Navy. Meteorologists warned that the situation above Europe was constantly changing because of varying winds and the continuing, irregular eruptions from the Icelandic volcano. That uncertainty is bumping up against Europe's need to resume flights. A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said there was currently no consensus as to what consists an acceptable level of ash in the atmosphere. The ranks of stranded passengers, meanwhile, were growing, and many would be stuck for days even if restrictions were fully and immediately lifted. A spokesman with the Civil Protection Agency in Iceland, said on Sunday the eruption is continuing and there are no signs that the ash cloud is thinning or dissipating. German air traffic control was the first on Sunday to loosen its ban on passenger flights, allowing some traffic from Frankfurt and airports in the north, but only for northern destinations. Eastward-bound flights were permitted from Berlin, Hannover, Erfurt and Leipzig. The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation also began allowing some flights on Saturday. AccuWeather.com said the top of the ash plume had dropped to about 10,000 feet from 33,000 earlier in the week, putting it in the flight path of even low-flying aircraft. Shifts in the wind will increase the risk for the Netherlands and Germany on Tuesday and Wednesday, the forecaster said. Ash and grit from volcanic eruptions can damage a plane in various ways. The abrasive ash can sandblast a jet's windshield, block fuel nozzles, contaminate the oil system and electronics and plug the tubes that sense air speed. The greatest danger is to the engines, where melted ash can then congeal on the blades and block the normal flow of air. There are no recorded instances of fatal aircraft crashes involving volcanic ash, though several have suffered damage and some temporarily lost engine power. Scientists say that because the volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines. 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APTN APEX 04-18-10 2009EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: Iceland Volcano Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:Iceland Volcano- REPLAY Aerials of volcano, ground shots, volcanologist comment LENGTH: 03:11 FIRST RUN: 1430 RESTRICTIONS: Part Iceland/ Part UK/RTE/CNNi/Al Jazeera English TYPE: English/Nat SOURCE: VARIOUS STORY NUMBER: 643335 DATELINE: Various - 17 April 2010 LENGTH: 03:11 AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY RUV - NO ACCESS ICELAND SKY - NO ACCESS UK/RTE/CNNi/AL JAZEERA ENGLISH SHOTLIST: RUV - NO ACCESS ICELAND Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland ++AERIAL SHOTS++ 1. Wide pan of plume of ash drifting from Eyjafjallajokull volcano 2. Zoom in to clouds of ash erupting from volcano, pull out to wide SKY - NO ACCESS UK/RTE/CNNi/AL JAZEERA ENGLISH Silverstone, United Kingdom 3. SOUNDBITE: (English) Dr David Rothery, Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences, Open University: ++AUDIO CONTINUES OVER SHOT 4 AND PLEASE NOTE THE ERUPTIONS FROM THE VOLCANO IS RUV - NO ACCESS ICELAND++ "We've still got to wait for that existing ash to drift by us and for all the transport situation to resolve itself so we've got several more days of severe disruption at the least I'm afraid." RUV - NO ACCESS ICELAND Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland ++AERIAL SHOTS++ 4. Close-up of dark ash erupting from volcano, pull out 5. Zoom in to ash erupting from volcano, pull out to wide ++GROUND SHOTS++ 6. Various tracking shots of clouds of ash drifting in sky 7. Various of vehicles driving along ash-covered road AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland 8. Wide of plume of ash drifting from volcano, farm buildings in foreground 9. Various of emergency service team at road block monitoring traffic ++MUTE++ 10. Wide of volcano in distance ++MUTE++ RUV - NO ACCESS ICELAND Reykjavik airport, Iceland 11. Pan of passengers in airport departure lounge 12. Tilt down of screen showing arrivals and departures 13. Various of passengers waiting with luggage 14. Passengers having boarding cards checked 15. Close-up of woman showing boarding card and identification 16. Pan of pilot walking towards aircraft 17. Wide of plane taxiing on runway 18. Plane taxiing on tarmac after landing 19. Passengers getting off plane 20. Passengers walking towards terminal building STORYLINE Southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano continued to send clouds of ash several miles (kilometres) into the air on Sunday, as flight restrictions remained across much of Europe. The volcano began erupting for the second time in a month on Wednesday. Winds have pushed the ash south and east across Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and into the heart of Europe, shutting down airports as far south and east as Bulgaria. Footage of the volcano shot late on Saturday showed dark grey ash spurting out of the crater. Iceland's emergency services have set up road blocks to prevent anyone except local residents from approaching the volcano. A thick layer of ash covering roads close to the volcano made driving conditions hazardous. A Civil Protection Agency spokesman in Iceland said on Sunday the eruption is continuing and there are no signs that the ash cloud is thinning or dissipating. The British Meteorological Office said there was no way to be certain that areas clear of ash will remain that way. The Met Office said the ash reached up to 20-thousand feet (6 kilometres), but that the grit also was dropping to low levels in some places and settling on the ground in parts of southern England. Dr David Rothery, from the Earth Sciences department at the UK's Open University, said on Saturday that even if the eruption subsided, "we've still got to wait for that existing ash to drift by us and for all the transport situation to resolve itself." He predicted "several more days of severe disruption at the least." The aviation industry, already reeling from a punishing economic period, is facing at least 200 (m) million US dollars in losses every day, according to the International Air Transport Association. Reykjavik's airport resumed flights to northern Norway on Saturday. Flights from the airport to all other European destinations have been cancelled, but flights to North America have not been interrupted. Several major airlines safely flew test flights without passengers over Europe on Sunday despite official warnings about the dangers of the plume to aircraft. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said that by midday on Sunday it had flown four planes through what it described as a gap in the layer of microscopic dust over Holland and Germany. Air France, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have also sent up test flights, although most travelled below the altitudes where the ash has been heavily concentrated. Eurocontrol, the European air navigation and safety organisation, said in a statement that by the end of Sunday more than 63-thousand flights will have been cancelled since April 15. 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APTN APEX 04-18-10 2103EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: ++Venezuela Killing Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:++Venezuela Killing- NEW Fmr lightweight boxing champ Valero held on susp of killing wife LENGTH: 02:30 FIRST RUN: 2330 RESTRICTIONS: PT No Access Venezuela TYPE: Spanish/Commentary SOURCE: VTV/GLOBOVISION STORY NUMBER: 643361 DATELINE: Valencia - 18 Apr 2010 LENGTH: 02:30 VTV - AP CLIENTS ONLY GLOBOVISION - NO ACCESS VENEZUELA SHOTLIST GLOBOVISION - NO ACCESS VENEZUELA 1. Various of Venezuela Boxer Edwin Valero being taken away by police 2. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Wilmer Flores, Venezuelan Federal Police Chief: "We learned about a regrettable incident in a well-known hotel here in Valencia in which boxer Edwin Valencia killed his young 20-year-old wife using a knife. Her name was Jennifer Carolina Viera. After the incident, at about 5:30 in the morning, he went down to the lobby of the hotel and told security and hotel staff about what had happened inside the room." VTV - AP CLIENTS ONLY 3. Flores walking with fellow officers STORYLINE Former lightweight boxing champion Edwin Valero was detained on Sunday on suspicion of killing his wife, the gravest in a string of problems that have threatened to derail his career. Venezuelan Federal Police Chief Wilmer Flores said Valero was arrested after police found the body of his 20-year-old wife in a hotel in Valencia. Valero left the hotel room around dawn on Sunday and allegedly told security that he had killed the woman, named by Flores as Jennifer Carolina Viera. Flores said police found three stab wounds on Viera's body. He said Valero had been transferred to a local police precinct. In a statement, the Attorney General's Office announced that prosecutors would formally charge Valero with murder "in the coming hours." Valero's lawyer, Milda Mora, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment. The 28-year-old fighter is a household name in Venezuela and he has a huge image of President Hugo Chavez tattooed on his chest, along with the country's yellow, blue and red flag. His all-action style and 27 - 0 losses record, all by knockouts, earned him a reputation as a tough, explosive crowd-pleaser. Venezuelans call him "Inca," alluding to an Indian warrior, while elsewhere he has been called "Dinamita," or dynamite. The former WBA super featherweight and WBC lightweight champion has been in trouble with the law before. Last month, Valero was brought up on charges of harassing his wife and threatening medical personnel who treated her at a hospital in the western city of Merida. Police arrested Valero following an argument with a doctor and nurse at the hospital, where his wife was being treated for a series of injuries, including a punctured lung and broken ribs. Valero also entered a Venezuelan rehabilitation centre on March 28 for treatment of a drug and alcohol addiction, Mora said at the time. Valero shot to fame when he won his first 18 fights by a first-round knockout, setting a record that has since been eclipsed by Tyrone Brunson. Valero last fought in February, stopping Antonio DeMarco in an entertaining fight in Monterrey, Mexico. He was replaced as WBC lightweight champion in February after he expressed a desire to campaign in a higher weight division, WBC president Jose Sulaiman said. 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APTN APEX 04-18-10 2038EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: Cuba Opposition Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:Cuba Opposition- REPLAY Security agents deny 'Ladies in White' the right to protest LENGTH: 01:41 FIRST RUN: 2030 RESTRICTIONS: AP Clients Only TYPE: Spanish/Natsound SOURCE: AP TELEVISION STORY NUMBER: 643354 DATELINE: Havana - 18 Apr 2010 LENGTH: 01:41 AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY SHOTLIST 1. "Ladies in White", wives and mothers of Cuban jailed dissidents, commencing to march as they leave church on 5th Avenue 2. Cuban government security agent talking to Ladies in White, UPSOUND (Spanish): "I am informing you that since you did not communicate us that you were going to hold this activity, you have no permission for such march and you must leave." 3. Ladies in White shouting (Spanish): "Freedom! Freedom!" at security agents 4. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Berta Soler, Lady in White: "If it is indeed the case that after seven years, we need a law that says we must ask for permission, we would respect that when we are recognised as well. Until then, we will not follow what you are verbally saying since we don't know who wrote that or who is doing that." 5. Various of government supporters carrying large Cuban flag and chanting as they surround Ladies in White 6. Wide of Ladies in White surrounded on 5th Avenue 7. Public bus arrives driving wrong way down street to pick up Ladies in White 8. Ladies in White trying to get through crowd and onto bus; one of the women faints 9. Travelling shot of bus surrounded by crowd 10. Pan left of Ladies in White on bus and crowd screaming at them 11. Bus leaving STORYLINE Cuban security agents have denied the wives and mothers of jailed dissidents permission to hold their weekly march, setting off a long, strange standoff under the hot Caribbean sun that ended with the women being led away. After seven years of peaceful, mostly uneventful, Sunday protests, officials first stopped the women, known as the "Ladies in White," on April 11, and informed them they would need permission to hold future demonstrations. The group, comprised mostly of the wives and mothers of some 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 crackdown, had been the only one whose protests were tolerated by Cuba, and they had never requested or received permission before. On Sunday, three state security officials waited for the women - just nine protesters in all - as they emerged from a Mass at the Santa Rita de Casia church in Havana's leafy Miramar neighbourhood. Officials shut down traffic along Fifth Avenue, one of the city's main arteries. One of the security officials told the Ladies in White that "since you did not communicate... that you were going to hold this activity, you have no permission for such march and you must leave." The official, who wore a red shirt and a black baseball cap with a picture of Ernesto "Che" Guevara" - would not give his name. "If it is indeed the case that after seven years, we need a law that says we must ask for permission, we would respect that when we are recognised as well. Until then, we will not follow what you are verbally saying since we don't know who wrote that or who is doing that," said one of the "Ladies in White", Berta Soler. After the women were told on Sunday they could not march, two groups of counter-protesters descended on them, screaming and holding up a large Cuban flag. "This street belongs to Fidel" they shouted, encircling the women and making it impossible to hear their shouts of "Freedom." The government claims such "acts of repudiation" are spontaneous expressions of loathing of the opposition, but coordination between state agents and counter-protesters is open. The Ladies in White formed a small circle and stayed put, holding pink gladiolas over their heads as the pro-government demonstrators taunted them. The women did not march, so they technically did not defy the government's ban. But they didn't leave either. After an hour, two Ladies in White and one pro-government protester were unable to continue because of the heat, and a short while later a third Lady in White was led to a waiting ambulance. The women refused to get on a bus sent by the Ministry of the Interior to take them away. Finally, a passenger bus was redirected onto Fifth Avenue, officials ordered the Ladies in White to get on it, and the protest was over. It was not immediately clear where the women were taken, but in the past they have been released back at their homes. The communist government says the dissidents are paid agents of Washington and part of an international campaign to defame Cuba. It brands all opposition activists as common criminals and lackeys of Washington and says every country should have the right to jail those it deems traitors. Clients are reminded: (i) to check the terms of their licence agreements for use of content outside news programming and that further advice and assistance can be obtained from the AP Archive on: Tel +44 (0) 20 7482 7482 Email: infoaparchive.com (ii) they should check with the applicable collecting society in their Territory regarding the clearance of any sound recording or performance included within the AP Television News service (iii) they have editorial responsibility for the use of all and any content included within the AP Television News service and for libel, privacy, compliance and third party rights applicable to their Territory. APTN APEX 04-18-10 1956EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: Cuba Cigar Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:Cuba Cigar- FILE Tributes paid to cigar legend Robaina, who died at 91 LENGTH: 01:03 FIRST RUN: 2030 RESTRICTIONS: AP Clients Only TYPE: Spanish/Natsound SOURCE: AP TELEVISION STORY NUMBER: 643351 DATELINE: FILE: Havana - 05 Feb 2002 LENGTH: 01:03 AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY SHOTLIST: 1. Close of Cuban tobacco grower Alejandro Robaina smoking cigar 2. Robaina at dinner table 3. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Alejandro Robaina, Cuban tobacco grower (1919 - 2010) : "I'm going to trust in my grandson and my children to continue the cultivation of tobacco, but I'm not retiring, I would never retire." 4. Robaina with a female singer at dinner party 5. Close of Robaina smoking cigar STORYLINE Cuban tobacco grower Alejandro Robaina, an international symbol of the island's cigar-making prowess, died on Saturday aged 91. Cuban state television announced his death, and the state tobacco company Habanos SA, which produces the Robaina brand cigar, said on its website that he was the "victim of a sombre illness." The only Cuban grower with a cigar brand named after him, Robaina travelled for decades as an unofficial global ambassador for the island's stogies, more commonly known as cigars. Into his final days, he could be found smoking cigars in a rocking chair on his front port in San Luis, in westernmost Pinar de Rio Province. He worked the fields in Vuelta Abajo, Cuba's most-famous cigar-growing region, where Habanos, a joint venture between the communist government and Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, produced Robainas. Born in the town of Alquizar on March 20, 1919, Robaina began working in his family's business from the age of 10. He remained in Cuba when his family's land was nationalised after the revolution that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista and brought Fidel Castro to power on New Year's Day 1959. Robaina became famous for the top-quality tobacco he helped produce and was honoured numerous times by the Castro government. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements. 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APTN APEX 04-18-10 1956EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: +Cyprus Results 3 Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:+Cyprus Results 3- WRAP Eroglu claims win, supporters, reax; Talat reax ADDS more reax LENGTH: 03:36 FIRST RUN: 2330 RESTRICTIONS: AP Clients Only TYPE: Turkish/English/Natsound SOURCE: AP TELEVISION STORY NUMBER: 643357 DATELINE: Nicosia - 18 Apr 2010 LENGTH: 03:36 AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY SHOTLIST (FIRST RUN 1930 ASIA PACIFIC PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ++INTERIOR SHOTS++ 1. Various of the winner of the northern Cyprus presidential elections Dervis Eroglu at his party headquarters surrounded by supporters 2. SOUNDBITE (Turkish) Dervis Eroglu, winner of the northern Cyprus presidential elections: (++WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION++) "It's very decisive to continue the negotiation process with Mr. Christofias (Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias). Until today, negotiations went on and from now on they will continue." 3. Wide of Eroglu surrounded by supporters 4. SOUNDBITE (English) Dervis Eroglu, winner of the north Cyprus presidential elections: (++WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION++) "It is time to (make) peace." ++NIGHT SHOT++ 5. Eroglu supporters driving car, honking horn and flying Turkish Cypriot flag in celebration (FIRST RUN 2130 NEWS UPDATE - 18 APRIL 2010) ++NIGHT SHOTS++ 6. Supporters of Eroglu waving flags and celebrating in street 7. Back shot of Eroglu supporters at celebration rally (FIRST RUN 1930 ASIA PACIFIC PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ++NIGHT SHOT++ 8. Fireworks in background as Eroglu supporters celebrate ++NEW (FIRST RUN 2330 AMERICAS PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ++NIGHT SHOTS++ 9. Supporters waving flags 10. SOUNDBITE (English) Mustafa Tokai, Eroglu supporter: "He is the president of all of northern Cyprus and I think he is the one who is going to have solution with the Greek side." 11. Child watching celebrations (FIRST RUN 1930 ASIA PACIFIC PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ++INTERIOR SHOTS++ 12. Various of officials in outgoing president of North Cyprus Mehmet Ali Talat's party headquarters (FIRST RUN 2130 NEWS UPDATE - 18 APRIL 2010) ++INTERIOR SHOTS++ 13. Set up shot of Talat at news conference 14. SOUNDBITE (English) Mehmet Ali Talat, outgoing president of north Cyprus: "My dream for a solution to the Cyprus problem continues. I'm decisive to help, to support a solution to the Cyprus problem, but as I said, I am going to make a broader statement afterwards, not for the time being. Thank you." 15. Pull out as Talat leaves ++NEW (FIRST RUN 2330 AMERICAS PRIME NEWS - 18 APRIL 2010) ++INTERIOR SHOT++ 16. SOUNDBITE (English) Ahmet Sozen, Professor of international relations at Eastern Mediterranean University: "Well, it's going to be a sort of more difficult task or more difficult process with Mr Eroglu, I think, because if you look at the track record of Mr Eroglu, compared to Mr. Talat, he was not so, let's say, close to the idea of establishing a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus. Because if you look at his track record, he's a politician who throughout his life preferred a two-state solution in Cyprus, so probably it's going to be a more difficult process in the peace process." (FIRST RUN 2130 NEWS UPDATE - 18 APRIL 2010) ++NIGHT SHOT++ 17. Eroglu supporter waving flag in street STORYLINE Hard-line challenger Dervis Eroglu won a key Turkish Cypriot leadership election on Sunday, vowing to continue peace talks amid fears his victory could bring to a grind the reunification negotiations with the Greek Cypriots to a halt and scuttle Turkey's bid for European Union membership. Eroglu won just enough votes for an outright victory, with 50.38 percent compared to leftist incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat's 42.85 percent, according to results posted on the Turkish Cypriot High Electoral Board's Web site. Candidates needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff. It was a much closer race than expected, as opinion polls had consistently predicted Eroglu to win by a wide margin. Eroglu assured supporters who rushed to his party headquarters in the northern, Turkish Cypriot half of the island's divided capital, that he would not abandon negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided island. "It's time to make peace," he said. "Until today, negotiations went on and from now on they will continue," he said as the crowd cheered, honked horns and set off fireworks at an impromptu victory rally outside. Also speaking on Sunday, Talat said he remains determined to help and support a peace deal. "My dream for a solution to the Cyprus problem continues," he told reporters at the Presidential Palace without giving any details. The island's division is already hampering Turkey's EU drive and could halt it if peace talks collapse. Since Turkey is a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) member such a move also could cripple closer cooperation between the military alliance and the EU, and increase regional instability. Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared the independent republic in 1983, but only Turkey recognises it, and maintains 35-thousand troops there. Divided Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, with only the internationally recognised south's 800-thousand Greek Cypriots enjoying membership benefits. Eroglu's resurgence was mainly due to public disillusionment with President Mehmet Ali Talat, whom many Turkish Cypriots fault for not delivering on a promise of a swift deal after opening negotiations with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias 19 months ago. Many of Eroglu's supporters claim he is the man to end the division, however analysts were doubtful on Sunday for the future of the peace process under his leadership. "If you look at his track record, he's a politician who throughout his life preferred a two-state solution in Cyprus," Ahmet Sozen, Professor of international relations at Eastern Mediterranean University, said on Sunday. Although Eroglu insists he would continue peace talks, he's at odds with an agreement between Talat and Christofias envisioning a future partnership under a federal roof. Eroglu insists on separate sovereignty for the breakaway north, something that Christofias has warned he wouldn't accept. The Turkish government has been careful not to take sides in the election, and has said that peace talks must continue regardless of the winner. Seven candidates ran in the election, but the others were not considered serious contenders and trailed far behind. Clients are reminded: (i) to check the terms of their licence agreements for use of content outside news programming and that further advice and assistance can be obtained from the AP Archive on: Tel +44 (0) 20 7482 7482 Email: infoaparchive.com (ii) they should check with the applicable collecting society in their Territory regarding the clearance of any sound recording or performance included within the AP Television News service (iii) they have editorial responsibility for the use of all and any content included within the AP Television News service and for libel, privacy, compliance and third party rights applicable to their Territory. APTN APEX 04-18-10 1956EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM ------------------- AP-APTN-2330: Malta Italy Pope Sunday, 18 April 2010 STORY:Malta Italy Pope- REPLAY Pontiff meets youth at end of Malta visit; returns to Rome LENGTH: 03:00 FIRST RUN: 2130 RESTRICTIONS: AP Clients Only TYPE: English/Natsound SOURCE: AP TELEVISION STORY NUMBER: 643349 DATELINE: La Valletta/Rome - 18 Apr 2010 LENGTH: 03:00 AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY SHOTLIST La Valletta, Malta ++DAY SHOTS++ 1. Kalkara wharf 2. Wide of Pope Benedict XVI embarking on catamaran 3. Wide pan right of boats following Pope's catamaran 4. Pope on catamaran deck surrounded by youths and other clergymen 5. Catamaran 6. Pope talking to youths 7. Various of cannons firing 8. Pope on catamaran deck with youths and clergymen 9. Wide of crowd cheering on Valletta waterfront harbour, police boats in foreground 10. Pope catamaran passing crowds on Valletta waterfront harbour 11. Wide of Manoel island 12. Pull out of La Valletta street scene 13. SOUNDBITE (English) Vox pop, No name given, Malta resident: "It is very important for the church to say a sort of sorry. I believe that the priests are also human beings and sometimes they do mistakes, however to abuse children is something which cannot be tolerated." 14. Wide of La Valletta 15. Close up of Malta and Vatican flags 16. SOUNDBITE (English) Vox pop, Clare Tica, Malta resident: "I am glad that the church is open minded about the topic, so maybe these things can be avoided in the future hopefully so no more victims can suffer." 17. La Valletta centre Rome, Italy ++NIGHT SHOTS++ 18. Wide of Pope getting off plane 19. Various of Pope greeting delegation 20. Various of Pope approaching helicopter 21. Pope getting on helicopter 22. Pope sitting inside helicopter 23. Helicopter leaving STORYLINE Pope Benedict XVI arrived back in Italy on Sunday night after a weekend pilgrimage in Malta, where he addressed the clerical sex abuse scandal and told victims the church will do everything possible to protect children and bring abusive priests to justice. With tears in his eyes, Pope Benedict XVI made his most personal gesture yet to respond to the scandal. The emotional moment carried no new admissions from the Vatican, which has strongly rejected accusations that efforts to cover up for abusive priests were directed by the church hierarchy for decades. Benedict met for more than a half-hour with eight Maltese men who say they were abused by four priests when they were boys living at a Catholic orphanage. During the meeting in the chapel at the Vatican's embassy here, Benedict expressed his "shame and sorrow" at the pain the men and their families suffered, the Vatican said. The pontiff told the men that the church would "implement effective measures" to protect children, the Vatican said, without offering details. "It is very important for the church to say a sort of sorry," said a Maltese resident on Sunday. "I believe that the priests are also human beings and sometimes they do mistakes, however to abuse children is something which cannot be tolerated," he added. The visit, which came on the second day of Benedict's two-day trip to this largely Roman Catholic island, marked the first time Benedict had met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year. "He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," the Vatican statement said. Victims' advocacy groups have demanded that the Vatican take concrete steps to protect children and remove abusive priests and the bishops who protected them, saying the pope's expressions to date of solidarity and shame were meaningless unless actual action is taken. The private meeting was confirmed only after it had occurred, as was the case when Benedict met with abuse victims in the United States and Australia in 2008. He returned to Rome late on Sunday. Benedict's overnight trip to Malta, originally scheduled to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck, had been overshadowed by expectations that he would make a strong gesture to repair the damage of the scandal. Benedict has been accused by victims groups and their lawyers of being part of systematic practice of cover-up by church hierarchy for paedophile priests, in his earlier roles as an archbishop in Germany and later at the helm of the Vatican morals office. Clients are reminded: (i) to check the terms of their licence agreements for use of content outside news programming and that further advice and assistance can be obtained from the AP Archive on: Tel +44 (0) 20 7482 7482 Email: infoaparchive.com (ii) they should check with the applicable collecting society in their Territory regarding the clearance of any sound recording or performance included within the AP Television News service (iii) they have editorial responsibility for the use of all and any content included within the AP Television News service and for libel, privacy, compliance and third party rights applicable to their Territory. APTN APEX 04-18-10 1956EDT ------------------- END -- OF -- ITEM -------------------