On Tuesday, the White House announced that it would be sending Ben Rhodes and Jeffrey DeLaurentis to attend the funeral of Fidel Castro that is set to be held in Cuba on Sunday. Though the administration announced it would not be sending an official “delegation” to the memorial service for the Cuban dictator, the two senior White House officials will be there to represent the United States. Rhodes currently serves as Deputy National Security Adviser under President Obama and DeLaurentis is the top U.S. diplomat to Cuba.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that the two White House officials would be going to represent the U.S. but specified that it is not a “presidential delegation” because “so much of the U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba is quite complicated.”
“The president has decided not to send a presidential delegation to attend the memorial service today,” Earnest said.
“Those of you who have been following this story closely over the last couple of years know that Mr. Rhodes has played a leading role in crafting the normalization policy that President Obama announced about two years ago,” he continued. “He has been the principal interlocutor with the Cuban government from the White House in crafting this policy and implementing it successfully.”
He went on to elaborate on why the White House wanted to specify that the two officials going were not to be called a delegation, stating that the administration did not find it appropriate to do so with all of the “conflict and turmoil” between the the U.S. and Cuba during Castro’s rule.
“There are many aspects of the U.S.-Cuba relationship that were characterized by a lot of conflict and turmoil, not just during the Castro regime, but we continue to have some significant concerns about the way the Cuban government currently operates, particularly with regard to protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people,” Earnest said.