Many had wondered if President Obama would make a pilgrimage to Havana for the Fidel Castro funeral next Tuesday. As it turns out, he isn’t. Even though attending state funerals is a part of the job description of the vice president, Joe Biden won’t be making the trip across the Straits of Florida either.
Obama is not totally snubbing the mourning Cubans however. The Los Angeles Times reports that the president will dispatch two informal emissaries to the communist island. Obama will send Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the Chargé d’affaires ad interim of the US embassy in Cuba, and Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy National Security Advisor, to send off the departed dictator. DeLaurentis is the top ranking US diplomat in Cuba and has been nominated to be the first US ambassador to Cuba since the fall of the Batista regime.
A fake news story had claimed that Obama had originally planned to attend the funeral personally, but had changed his mind when Donald Trump, citing an Executive Order by John F. Kennedy, threatened to have Obama arrested when Trump took office. In an article debunking the story, Snopes points out a disclaimer on the site that published the story that says, “All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.”
Obama did issue a formal statement after Castro’s death in which he equivocated on Castro’s legacy, saying, “Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
Left unsaid by Obama was that Castro’s “enormous impact” included a swath of destruction and death for the island. Castro was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans, many of whom faced firing squads on his orders. Many thousands more were imprisoned and untold numbers fled the island. Many, including relatives of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, made new lives in the United States.
President Obama lifted the 50-year-old US embargo on Cuba in 2014. Donald Trump, whose company was accused during the campaign of violating the embargo in the 1990s, has indicated that his administration may not continue Obama’s policy of détente. In a tweet, Trump recently stated, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”