Top Obama Aide Comes To Allay Cuban-American Concerns About Havana Trip

Mar 11, 2016

Polls show most Cuban-Americans agree with President Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba. But many are nonetheless wary of the historic visit he’s making there this month.

Which is why a top White House official came to Miami today to hear their concerns.

On March 20, Obama will make the first visit to Cuba by a U.S. president since 1928. Many inside South Florida’s Cuban-American community feel he should have waited until Cuba showed more human rights improvements. Those anxieties brought Ben Rhodes, a Deputy National Security Adviser, to a town hall meeting on Miami Dade College’s downtown campus.

Rhodes assured the gathering that human rights will be part of the President’s agenda in Havana.

“He will certainly be meeting with dissidents," Rhodes said. "And we have made clear from the very beginning of any discussion about a trip the President would take that we select who we meet with. And that will be the case during the President’s trip to Cuba.”

Rhodes also rejected suggestions that Obama’s trip ignores the pain many Cuban exile families still experience.

“I will never understand this as well as you do, and I will never feel it as viscerally as you do," Rhodes said. "But what I can tell you is that we want to get to the same place...This is not about 'Cuba is a fun place to visit.'”

The town hall was organized by the Roots of Hope organization.