By Julian Pecquet - 06/04/12 05:51 PM EDT
Mariela Castro, the niece of Fidel Castro and daughter of President Raúl Castro, told CNN she wants President Obama to be reelected in an interview set to air Monday.
“As a citizen of the world, I would like him to win,” Castro told Christiane Amanpour. “Seeing the candidates, I prefer Obama.”
Castro, the head of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education and a proponent of gay marriage in Cuba, visited the United States to attend a panel of the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco last week. Unlike Castro, Cubans are usually forbidden from traveling outside the communist-ruled island.
In the CNN interview, Castro said she hopes for an end to America's decades-old embargo against Cuba if Obama wins a second term.
“I believe that Obama is a fair man, and Obama needs greater support to be able to take this decision,” she said. “If Obama counted on the full support of the American people, then we could normalize our relationship and have better relations than what we had under President Carter,” she added. Carter lifted all restrictions on U.S. travel to the island during his presidency.
Castro also said the United States should release five Cuban intelligence operatives in exchange for Alan Gross, a USAID contractor serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community without a permit. The so-called Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and accused of espionage and other crimes; the Cuban government says they were sent to spy on Cuban exiles in the United States, some of whom have been tied to acts of terrorism against Cuba including the 1976 bombing of an airliner that killed all 78 people aboard.
“I think that the six must be released — both the five Cubans and Alan Gross,” Castro told CNN. “I believe that this would be the happiest solution for all involved.”
She went on to say Gross is being treated well and “has been granted everything that he's asked for,” including conjugal visits.
“He's been treated with respect and dignity,” Castro said, “the way we always treat prisoners in Cuba.”
Respected human-rights groups paint a different picture of conditions in the island's prisons.
Cuba “remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent,” Human Rights Watch writes in its 2012 World Report.
“In 2011 Raúl Castro’s government continued to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, forced exile, and travel restrictions,” the report states. “Prisoners who criticize the government, refuse to undergo ideological 'reeducation,' or engage in hunger strikes and other protests are often subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, and visit restrictions, and denied medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress, giving prison authorities total impunity.”