Obama answers questions from top Cuban blogger
* By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer - Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:35PM EST
President Barack Obama has answered questions submitted by a celebrated Cuban blogger, saying he isn't interested in "talking for the sake of talking" with Raul Castro and indicating he won't visit the island until the communist government changes its ways.
In an unusual written response to Yoani Sanchez, who has gained international acclaim for daring to criticize her government online, Obama also said it is up to Cuba to act if it wants normal relations with Washington, saying that a true thaw in nearly 50 years of deep-freeze "will require action by the Cuban government."
His comments were posted Thursday on Sanchez's blog, "Generacion Y," which like most sites critical of the Cuban government is blocked on the island.
Sanchez uses caustic, often witty posts to provide an inside look at a communist state, writing about such daily hardships as food shortages and tensions caused by a lack of freedom of expression and assembly.
Obama assured Sanchez that the United States "has no intention of invading Cuba," a Cold War concept that top Cuban officials insist is still a possibility.
Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from his ailing brother Fidel in February 2008, has said he would be willing to meet with Obama and has even suggested they should sit down at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Obama told Sanchez he doesn't want empty dialogue.
"I am not interested ... in talking for the sake of talking," he wrote. "In the case of Cuba, such diplomacy should create opportunities to advance the interests of the United States and the cause of freedom for the Cuban people."
Obama answered seven questions from Sanchez, with his responses running more than 1,000 words. Sanchez said he wrote in English but that his office provided a Spanish translation, which she posted. The White House confirmed the responses came from the president.
Reached at home, Sanchez declined to comment, referring all queries to her blog. But her husband and fellow blogger Reinaldo Escobar said that she had sent printed copies of her questions and electronic versions to the White House more than three months ago.
"We had very little hope (Obama) was going to answer," Escobar said. "He's the president. He is very busy with other things."
Escobar said Obama's response arrived Wednesday night but declined to give details, saying only that they came "through official channels," a possible reference to the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Havana instead of an embassy.