The Obama administration will evaluate the progress of its new Cuba policy by considering issues such as the arrests of dissidents, access to the Internet and the development of the island’s private sector, according to participants in a recent White House meeting.
The administration would like to see improvements in those areas when it considers a possible visit of President Barack Obama to Cuba, but such progress would not be a prerequisite for the visit as White House spokesman Josh Earnest has indicated, White House and State Department officials told participants in the meeting, which was closed to the news media.
Several people invited to the Wednesday gathering, who asked that they not be identified, told El Nuevo Herald that the government officials mentioned that a possible decision on a trip would be evaluated early next year or in January. The White House denied that any specific month was mentioned.
Participants said Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Council adviser, told the gathering that a possible Obama trip to Cuba would be evaluated at the beginning of 2016, based on the progress achieved by Cuban authorities on issues that the U.S. government considers to be important, such as human rights.
Rhodes also compared a possible Obama visit to Cuba with the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall, one source at the meeting told the newspaper.