The US will not send a formal delegation to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s funeral, though two top American officials will attend, the White House announced on Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during the daily briefing that President Barack Obama would send Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and top US diplomat Jeff DeLaurentis, though he would not initiate the formal process to appoint delegates to Castro’s funeral.
Earnest explained that this seemingly arbitrary distinction acknowledged Castro’s human rights abuses, while symbolically ratcheting down tensions with the Cuban government to theoretically push for greater protections for average Cuban citizens.
“So much of the US diplomatic relationship with Cuba that is quite complicated. There are many aspects of the US Cuba relationship that were characterised by a lot of turmoil, not just during the Castro regime,” Earnest said.
“But we continue to have some significant concerns about how the Cuban government operates, particularly with regards to protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people. We believe this is an appropriate way for the United States to show our commitment to an ongoing future-oriented relationship with the Cuban people. This was an appropriate way to show respect, to participate in the events that are planned for this evening, while also acknowledging some of the differences that remain between our two countries.”
Following Castro’s death last week, Obama offered a fairly ambiguous statement, seeming to allude to Castro’s attempts to quash dissent, while noting that his administration “worked hard to put the past behind us.”
“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” the statement said.
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
For their part, many Republicans celebrated Castro’s death, and urged the administration not to send a delegation to his funeral.
“I very much hope that we don’t see any U.S. government officials going to Fidel Castro’s funeral. I hope we don’t see Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Democrats lining up to lionize a murderous tyrant and thug,” Sen. Ted Cruz said.
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