White House: Obama visit to Cuba ‘not ruled out’
US President Barack Obama has no immediate plans to visit Cuba but has not ruled out making such a trip “in the year to come,” the White House said Monday.
As France’s President Francois Hollande touched down in Havana, Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters who asked if the US leader would follow suit: “I would not rule it out.”
The US administration is negotiating an end to its half-century-old stand-off with communist Cuba, and has already conducted a prisoner exchange and begun to loosen trade restrictions.
Obama wants to restore full diplomatic ties with Cuba and to finally lift a US trade embargo, but faces domestic opposition from those who fear he is ceding too much to a cruel dictatorship.
Senior US officials have visited Havana for negotiations on reopening the countries’ embassies in their respective capitals, and Obama met his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro last month at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
But a full presidential visit to the Cuban capital would be seen as a powerful symbol that the long-standing conflict is drawing to a close.