Today, The Honorable Benjamin Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, is traveling aboard a United States military aircraft from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) to Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) in Havana, Republic of Cuba, on Martin Luther King Day, a United States federal holiday.
Unlike his visit to the Republic of Cuba in December 2016, which was not announced in advance and only made public in conjunction with funeral arrangements for H.E. Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, former president of the Republic of Cuba, this visit was reported in a media release issued by the National Security Council (NSC) this morning.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2017
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes' Travel to Cuba
On Monday, January 16, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes will travel to Cuba for official meetings, cultural engagements, and to witness the signing of a U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The arrangement will establish a framework for strengthening our partnership on counternarcotics, counterterrorism, legal cooperation, and money laundering, including technical exchanges that contribute to a strong U.S.-Cuba law enforcement relationship. Mr. Rhodes' trip to Cuba follows last week's announcement that the Department of Homeland Security has ended the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy as well as the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program – another step forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy.
Since the President's December 2014 announcement, we have worked with the people and the Government of Cuba to take steps to normalize our relations – re-establishing diplomatic relations, opening embassies, expanding travel and commercial opportunities, and launching initiatives to help our people cooperate and innovate. The United States and Cuba have reached more than a dozen arrangements to expand cooperation in areas such as health, medical research, agriculture, environmental cooperation, hydrography, marine protected areas, counternarcotics, civil aviation, and direct transportation of mail.
The goals of the President’s Cuba policy have been simple: to help the Cuban people achieve a better future for themselves and to advance the interests of the United States. While significant differences between our governments continue, the progress of the last two years reminds the world of what is possible when we are defined not by the past but by the future we can build together.