It was just a few months ago that President Obama shocked the world by announcing a historic thaw in relations with Cuba, and on Thursday, that thaw continued with the presence of a Cuban media contingent at the White House daily briefing. The Cuban journalists are in Washington, DC to cover talks between U.S. and Cuban officials on fully restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries, including the opening of embassies.
During Thursday’s White House daily briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that he had a cabinet meeting to get to right after the session, but when he called on Yahoo! News’ Olivier Knox to ask the final question, Knox threw Earnest a historic curveball, asking Earnest a question on behalf his Cuban colleagues and row-mates.
“Maybe I’ll give one of them the last question,” Earnest replied, but that wasn’t what Cuba National Television reporter Cristina Escobar had in mind. Like an old White House pro, she asked the last seven or so questions of the briefing, making Earnest late for his cabiinet meeting:
“First, do you think that it’s possible to see the scenario in which we will open embassies in Havana and Washington? And in that future scenario, is the administration committed to be more respectful of the Vienna Convention towards the behavior of the American diplomats in Havana, for example? Do you think the programs for regime change will go on or not? Do you have any remarks on that? And on the other way, do think that President Obama will also continue using his executive prerogative to expand the links, the bonds, with Cuba?”
“…Do you think that kind of change will go on underground, as has been done until now, or will it be more open? Publicly, you’ve changed the ways in which that kind of change that you want to see, that your government wants to see in Cuba, would you say that that would be more open, and do you think that it’s possible to see President Obama in Havana before 2016?”
Earnest answered her questions at length, as you can see, and included a rebuke of Cuba’s human rights record, while noting that President Obama ” would relish the opportunity to visit the island of Cuba, and Havana in particular.”
Escobar undoubtedly earned the respect and admiration of at least the last five rows of reporters, not only by getting called on, but by plowing through an entire joint press conference’s-worth of questions, all while Earnest had a meeting to run off to, and all from the back row! Respect, Cristina Escobar.