White House

Obama wants to go to Cuba, but only if he can meet with dissidents

President Barack Obama speaks about the Paris climate agreement from the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.
President Barack Obama speaks about the Paris climate agreement from the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. AP

President Barack Obama, who a year ago ended decades of estrangement between the U.S and Cuba, would like to visit the island nation, but only if he gets to meet with dissidents opposed to the government in Havana.

In an interview with Yahoo to mark the one-year anniversary of his pitch to renew ties between the two countries, Obama said he “very much” hopes to visit Cuba during his last year in office.

But he added that “part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody.” He said he told Cuban President Raúl Castro “that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”

Speaking in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Yahoo says, Obama “strongly hinted that he would make a decision over the next several months.”

“The president said he hopes that ‘sometime next year’ he and his top aides will see enough progress in Cuba that they can say that ‘now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that’s been made, but also maybe (go) there to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction,’ ” the site reported.

The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council argues that Obama should go to Cuba, saying that he needs a “bilateral commercial landscape that is impactful enough” that a successor wouldn’t try to dismantle Obama’s outreach.

During the past year, U.S. product exporters have gained little from the outreach, “nearing nothing,” council President John S. Kavulich wrote.

Capitol Hill Cubans, a blog run by Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, which has opposed Obama’s outreach, argues that “by all metrics, Obama's new policy has not only proven to be irresponsible, but counterproductive,” citing what it says has been a historic number of political arrests as well as a decline in U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

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