By Madalena Araujo, CNN
It is time for the Obama Administration to improve the long-strained relations with Cuba, Ernesto Londoño, a member of the New York Times' editorial board, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Thursday.
“I think we've entered a new era and I think the months ahead represent an opportunity for the Obama Administration to take a pretty bold move and to move this relationship in a direction that I think the president himself has long wanted to take it.”
The New York Times, arguably America's most important newspaper, has taken a very public stand calling for the end of the decades-old economic blockade of Cuba.
“I think reforms in Cuba and the political landscape in the United States offer the right conditions for this relationship to move on a healthier trajectory, for the two countries, for instance, to think about resuming formal diplomatic relations.”
Londoño joined Amanpour from the Cuban capital Havana, following a series of editorials Cuba-focussed editorial in the paper. The more than 50-year embargo was a Cold War measure implemented by the U.S. in 1960 when Fidel Castro, a friend of the then-Soviet Union, came to power.
Londoño said the paper had always seen the policy, which restricts travel and bans trade, “as a failed policy.”
“The purpose of the policy we've pursued for 50 years, the purpose has been to try to undermine and bring about democratic change in Cuba through punitive measures. We have five decades of evidence that that policy does not work.”
So how would the U.S. benefit from changing its attitude towards Cuba apart from, if ultimately successful, bringing about democratic change?
“There's a number of things,” Londoño said. “Perhaps most importantly the United States has found itself diplomatically very isolated in the hemisphere. Cuba keeps coming up in any number of issues that they want to engage on with countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Central America.”
“Every time there's a diplomatic forum, every time there's a regional effort underway, a lot of these - a lot of these countries are telling the United States we disagree vehemently with your policy in Cuba and Cuba becomes the thorn that stymies many things the U.S. would like to try to do.”
The journalist told Amanpour that “the Cuban government has undertaken a number of really significant economic reforms. There is a small and limited private sector that is cropping up.”
“And for the first time in a very long time, it's given Cubans an opportunity to start building livelihoods that are somewhat separate from the state, where the state does not have absolute control over their livelihoods.”
Londoño, who is in Cuba for the first time in ten years writing and researching the editorials, said he also notices a “far less vitriolic rhetoric from the Cuban government, from the Cuban state media toward the United States.”
“We've stopped seeing the kind of demonstrations in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission here. So I think they've sent an unmistakable signal that they want to turn a new page.”
It has been a horrific year for journalists.
As long as reporters have done their work, people have tried to stop them from doing it; but the dangers of the profession have been especially apparent this year.
In Iraq and Syria, the Muslim extremist group ISIS has captured and executed journalists in horrific fashion, starting with the beheading of James Foley.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says that 42 journalists have been killed this year alone; last year, 211 were jailed.
Every year, that same organization puts a spotlight on those who, as the Czech leader Vaclav Havel said, strive for “living in truth.”
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who hosted this year’s awards ceremony on Tuesday, spoke this week with two of the honorees – Mikhail Zygar, a Russian journalist struggling to keep the country’s only intendant TV news station on the air, and Siamak Ghaderi, who served four years in an Iranian prison and received 60 lashes for his work.
Click above to watch.
By Madalena Araujo, CNN
President Obama’s new action on immigration will provide “real relief” for millions of families who are just trying to find “a better life,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
“I am very welcoming… [of] his move, his action, of course, because [it] will benefit at least five million people to really legalize their statuses here, and especially for all those adults who have already children, U.S. citizens born here.”
“And so it will be great for them to have a legal status and work here normally. And for them it's a real relief.”
Last week, through an executive order, the U.S. President announced that he intends to grant large numbers of undocumented immigrants protection from deportation; The Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than five million people could be protected.
By Madalena Araujo, CNN
The grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the death of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown has angered many Americans, who feel that equal justice under the country’s law system is failing.
So is that the case? CNN’s Christiane Amanpour put the question on Tuesday to Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and to CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst and Former Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin.
They started by looking into how prosecutor Robert McCulloch handled the investigation into Brown’s death, which sparked protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in August. The demonstrations have since spread across the country.
“I would draw a distinction between the process and the result. I actually think the result – no charges – is defensive, but I don’t think the process he [McCulloch] followed was appropriate,” Toobin told Amanpour.
“The best thing the criminal justice system can do is treat everyone the same, and the process the prosecutor used, using a grand jury, which is rarely used in any kind of setting and throwing all the evidence, rather than a selection of it before the grand jury almost seemed to dictate the result, which was an exoneration."
Fighting for equality can lead to a death sentence, but this week it also led to recognition.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman - who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 - were honored this week by President Barack Obama with America's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.
Christiane Amanpour has the story.
By Madalena Araujo, CNN
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sexist remarks serve to reinforce discrimination against women, Turkish parliament member Binnaz Toprak told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
Erdogan triggered a storm of criticism on Monday when he said at a summit hosted by a women’s group in Istanbul that women and men are not equal "because their nature is different."
Toprak, a member of parliament from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, started by saying that “I think … what he means by this, that men and women are not equal, is physical equality.”
But the Turkish MP went on to explain that when one says “gender equality, the principle has to do with legal equality and equal opportunities and legal rights.”
“So I think even if he [President Erdogan] says that it has to do with legality, I think the very statement that men and women are not equal reinforces prejudices against women, reinforces men's ideas that women are not equal and cannot ever be equal and so on in a country where quite a number of people have conservative views on this issue.”
Imagine a world where Europe has become the sick and beleaguered grandmother of the world.
It’s the world we have now according to Pope Francis, who warned that the continent is “slowly losing its soul.” Christiane Amanpour has the story.
By Madalena Araujo, CNN
St. Louis rapper Tef Poe told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that he has “come to terms with the fact that in the United States of America it is perfectly legal for police officers to murder people of color.”
Poe’s comments come as Americans have taken to the streets across the country to voice their frustration at a grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who shot dead an unarmed black 18-year-old in August.
The idea that a police office can kill someone without accountability is something "we’re coping with and that’s the reality that we live in."
"There is no justice when you are murdered by a police officer when you are a person of color – that is a harsh fact to embrace and accept in today’s time.”
Poe, who is calling for justice for Michael Brown and for “every victim of police brutality,” said today was “a very emotional day” for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.
He told Amanpour that, in his opinion, teenager Michael Brown was “murdered because [officer] Darren Wilson feared his black skin.”
Peter Greste has been in an Egyptian jail since he was arrested along with two other al Jazeera journalists in December 2013.
In June, he, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven years behind bars after being convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government now considers a terrorist organization. They steadfastly refuted the charges.
Last week, the prospect that they could be released from prison was raised when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told France 24 that he was considering a pardon for the journalists.
On the heels of that news, Greste’s grieving parents sent this statement exclusively to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour:
We welcome any news and changes of attitude that might lead to Peter being released from prison. However, there is uncertainty and lack of clarity in the latest laws relating to foreign prisoner repatriation. Therefore, we are patiently moderating our expectations.
Nevertheless, two things are very clear.
1. Peter has been punished for merely practicing good and responsible journalism. He has not wronged anyone. None of his stories has been discredited. There is no credible evidence against him.
2. Peter was not, will not nor can be a threat to Egypt’s security or national interest. He was in Cairo for a three week appointment. He has no vested interest in Egyptian politics. He did not speak any Arabic. He is not a Moslem. He did not know his work colleagues prior to his arrival.
A side note – Amanpour will be hosting the 2014 International Press Freedom Awards, presented by the Committee to Protect Journalists. You can view their work here.
By Madalena Araujo, CNN
Scandal-hit FIFA acts as “a power unto itself” and as if it is accountable to no one, a former anti-corruption adviser to the organization told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
The governing body of world football has found itself embroiled in controversy amid charges of corruption and bribery in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar.
“It certainly appears to the public that FIFA is a power unto itself and that it proceeds without any real regard to the reputational damage that it's suffering. And it seems answerable, really, to no one. It doesn’t seem to respond to an extraordinary, enormously negative response from the fans.
"Very, very slow start from sponsors and the Swiss government doesn’t seem to be exercising much oversight. So really, a power unto themselves,” Alexandra Wrage said.
Wrage was a member of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee (IGC), which was organized to make recommendations to improve FIFA’s governance. She resigned in April last year in protest against what she described as FIFA's resistance to reform.