EFE, via 14ymedio, 14 December 2015 — The US President Barack Obama hopes to visit Cuba in 2016, his last year in office, but he only make the trip if he is assured he can meet with dissidents on the island, he said in an interview with Yahoo released Monday.
“If I go on a visit [to Cuba], then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody,” Obama said in the interview, conducted on the eve of the first anniversary of the announcement of the start of the process of normalization of relations between the United US and Cuba.
“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,” he said.
Obama insisted he is “very interested” in visiting Cuba and said it will take a decision “over the next several months.”
“Now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that’s been made, but also maybe to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction.” said the president.
But, If we’re going backward then there is not much reason for me to be there. I’m not interested in just validating the status quo,” he added.
On December 17, 2014, Obama and Raul Castro announced the start of a process to normalize bilateral relations that ended in July, with the reopening of their respective embassies in Havana and Washington after more than half a century of enmity.
Last week, the two countries took a further step towards full normalization with the announcement of an agreement to reestablish direct mail service through a pilot program of transport for mail and packages.
Agreements were also negotiated to establish regular commercial flights between the United States and Cuba and in late November representatives of the two governments in Washington held a meeting focused on the issue of migration and another on combating drug trafficking.
While thousands of Cubans are stranded in Central America in their attempt to reach the United States, Havana has urged Washington to repeat the “Cuban Adjustment Act,” in force since 1966 and which, together with “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, allows Cubans who set foot in the country to stay.
However, the United States has so far refused to make changes to these measures, even after the restoration of relations with Cuba.
Another issue hindering full normalization is the economic embargo on Cuba, the complete lifting of which can only be done by the United States Congress, but Obama has taken enforcement action to ease travel and some commercial transactions.