The Democratic governor spoke after a confab with Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba's executive vice president and next in the line of succession to Raul Castro. At a press conference in the airport terminal here, Cuomo for the first time on this trip used the words “human rights,” one breath after he praised Castro's move toward openness and promised to push federal officials to lift the embargo.
In meetings on Monday with trade officials, Cuomo made more oblique references to Cuba's human rights record. Critics of the trip describe Castro as a dictator, and note that homosexuality was until recently illegal on the communist island and punishable by jail.
“As I said earlier in the comments, in any relationship you have areas of agreement, you have areas of disagreement, and in the relationship between the United States and Cuba there's going to be areas where we agree in policy and areas where we disagree with policy,” Cuomo said, pausing as his words were translated into Spanish for a passel of Cuban journalists. “I'm sure Cuba will have areas where they agree with U.S. policy, where they disagree with U.S. policy. Human rights are an issue that is very important to the people of the United States, and New York in particular, and those issues have to be worked through. And what we have heard is the best way to do that is through engagement as opposed to a policy of isolation.”