Obama's Cuba Visit May be on the Rocks Due to Kerry's Cancellation
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's cancelled visit to Cuba may also lead to the cancellation of President Barack Obama's trip to the communist nation.
Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 24 that he is hoping to visit Cuba "in the next week of two" to discuss human rights issues and present a groundwork for Obama's visit, which is set on March 21-22.
Officials, however, said on Thursday that Kerry's trip will not push through because some details are difficult to finalize. John Kirby, the State Department's spokesman, said Kerry "is still interested in visiting in the near future, and we are working with our Cuban counterparts and our embassy to determine the best time frame," the Los Angeles Times quoted.
According to the outlet, other officials said the U.S. Embassy is "overwhelmed" in its back-to-back arrangements regarding Obama and Kerry's respective visits. Kerry went to Cuba in August 2015 to raise the U.S. flag at the reopening ceremony of the American Embassy in Havana, the Cuban capital.
The Divide Remains
Last month, Obama verbalized his aim of engaging with the Cuban people during his visit to the Caribbean island. The president said in his weekly address published Feb. 20 that his visit will also include meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, to discuss business and easier access to trade and the Internet.
Obama's upcoming visit is made complicated by which Cuban dissidents the president will be permitted to meet. Even though the United States and Cuba have already made efforts to normalize their countries' diplomatic relations, such plans are still hampered due to Havana's refusal to ease its limits on freedom of expression. Havana has also done little to improve the handling human rights activists and political dissidents.
Relations between the United States and Cuba remain fragile despite the restoration of diplomatic ties, the news outlet wrote. Travel and trade restrictions between the two may have eased over the last year, but the continuing dialogue over human rights issues could be a huge problem.
U.S. diplomats said they will not tolerate any attempts from Cuba to block Obama from meeting dissidents. However, political dissidents in Cuba are diverse. Some are anti-Castro who despise Obama while others are hated by Cuba's government.
Up to now, dissidents are still being detained by the Cuban government for short periods, the news outlet noted. In January, 1,414 political dissidents were detained with 56 of them beaten, according to Elizardo Sanchez, head of the opposition Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
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