President Barack Obama may visit Cuba, even though the government is repressive, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
“It is not unprecedented for us to go places and interact with countries with whom we have a very fundamental difference of opinion about that country’s treatment of their citizens,” Earnest said Dec. 17, citing Obama’s recent travel to China and Burma.
“By engaging with the leaders of these countries and by engaging with the people of these countries, we can facilitate more respect for basic human rights,” he said.
Obama “has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do. So if there’s an opportunity for the President to visit, I’m sure he wouldn’t turn it down,” Earnest said during his press conference.
A national socialist government has ruled Cuba since 1959. Cuba’s fascist regime was highlighted Dec. 17, when the country’s ruler — Raul Castro —- appeared in a military uniform and addressed his subjects as “compatriots.” In contrast, leaders of the Communist Party in Russia excluded military leaders and uniforms, and addressed their subjects as non-national “comrades.”
In 2011, Castro replaced his brother, Fidel Castro, who ruled the country since 1959.
Earnest defended the deal with the fascist government by saying it has released more than 50 political prisoners, promised to work with officials from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cress, and promised to allow the importation of communications products, Earnest said.
Earnest did not mention the terms democracy, elections or free speech. Instead, he talked about “human rights,” and claimed the new policy would empower Cubans to seek more “human rights.”
“By engaging with the leaders of these countries and with the people of these countries, we can facilitate more respect for basic human rights,” he said.
The “human rights” term is very broad, and according to the United Nations, includes many elements — such as food, pensions and personal security — that can exist without free speech, property rights or the power to choose their own government.
However, Earnest did say Cubans may become “empowered.”
“We want to facilitate more openness in our relationship between the United States and Cuba. And by facilitating that openness, we do principally one thing, which is empower the Cuban people,” he said.
Obama’s deputies also justified the deal as good for American commerce and national security. Earnest cited support from the farm industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The president believes the deal “is in the best interest of our economy, is in the best interest of our national security, and will actually succeed in empowering the Cuban people,” Earnest said.
The deal will also achieve more gains than the prior efforts to isolate Cuba, Earnest said repeatedly.