For the second time in less than a month, President Obama has indicated conditions under which he desires to travel to Cuba.
In a statement today by U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, The White House will decide in the next couple months about a potential trip by President Obama to Cuba.
Rhodes said Washington wanted to see Cuba improve its record on human rights and spur greater economic activity such as expanding the private sector. Obama also wants wants both countries to take steps to ensure the thaw in relations is irreversible.
Cuba also needs to give its people more access to information and the Internet, he said.
“The key test for us is whether the president’s going to Cuba would help advance those priorities,” Rhodes told reporters in Hawaii, where Obama is vacationing.
“That’s something I think we’ll make a decision about … in the next couple months.”
Last month, Obama indicated he has told the Castros that, despite the historic re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries earlier this year, he is unlikely to visit the Communist island nation before he leaves office without “progress.”
He first wants to see ordinary Cubans enjoy more personal freedoms.
“I am very much interested in going to Cuba, but I think the conditions have to be right,” Obama said. “And what I’ve said to the Cuban government is ‘If, in fact I with confidence can say that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress.'”
“If I go on a visit, then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody,” Obama said. “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President [Raul] Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”
In the interview, which coincided with the anniversary of the announcement that Havana and Washington would restore relations, Obama also defended his aim to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but acknowledged that it was unlikely to be handed back to Havana any time soon. The military prison issue is separate from the Naval Station at Guantanamo (GITMO). Obama said the GITMO decision would likely be made by a future president.
Obama has made clear he is eager to visit the country before he leaves office next year.