Obama has worked during his final years in office to end the United States' policy of economic and diplomatic isolation toward Cuba, insisting that the old policy was not working. President-elect Donald Trump and other Republicans have slammed Obama for his outreach to the Cuban regime, and Trump has suggested that he might renegotiate the terms of the opening with the Cuban government or end it all together.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who played a central role in negotiations with the Cubans, will attend Castro's funeral. Rhodes “was already planning to travel to Cuba this week” for meetings with the Cuban government, said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career diplomat who has headed the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana since last summer, will also attend.
The decision to send Rhodes and DeLaurentis is something of a middle ground between sending an official delegation and ignoring the ceremony. “There is a formal process where the president will delegate a delegation . . . that will not be taking place this time,” Earnest said.
Earnest said the decision not to send a delegation reflects the complicated relationship with Cuba, characterized by “turmoil.” Sending Rhodes and DeLaurentis to the funeral reflects the United States' ongoing human rights concerns balanced against the administration's desire to build “an ongoing future relationship with the Cuban people,” Earnest said.