President Obama Meets with Civil Society Leaders in Cuba

The President: Well,
I’m just going to make brief remarks here because,
obviously, I just made more extensive remarks
at the National Theater. This gives me an
opportunity to hear directly from some of
the leading Civil Society leaders here in Cuba. A few I’ve had a change
to meet previously, some in Miami, some
when I was in Panama for the Summit of the
Americas, so some I’m meeting for the first time. All of the individuals
around this table have shown extraordinary courage;
they have spoken out on behalf of the issues that
they care deeply about. Some of them represent
specific constituencies inside of Cuba; some of
them have broader concerns regarding democracy, the
ability to speak freely or worship freely or
assemble, or advocating on behalf of democratic
practices here in Cuba. There are people here who
have been detained, some in the past, some very
recently, and as I have said consistently, part of
our policy with respect to engagement with Cuba is
not simply me meeting with President Castro or
government-to-government relations. Much of this is a matter
of us being able to hear directly from the Cuban
people and making sure that they have a voice
and making sure that their concerns and
their ideas are helping to shape U.S. policy. So I want to thank all
of them for being here. It requires, oftentimes,
great courage to be active in civic life
here in Cuba. As I indicated in my
speech, this is an area where we continue to
have deep differences with the Cuban government, and
my hope is that, by listening and hearing from them,
that we can continue to refine our policy in such
a way that, ultimately, the Cuban people are
able to live freely and prosperously. So thank you so much, all
of you, for taking the time to be here. Okay, thank
you, everybody.

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