US Department Of State Discusses Cuba Policy Review...

Previewing Secretary Tillerson's Participation in the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America

Special Briefing

William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

John S. Creamer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and Western Hemisphere Regional Economic Policy and Summit Issues

Via Teleconference

June 12, 2017


MS NAUERT: All right. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us for today’s background call on Secretary Tillerson’s upcoming travel to Miami. He’ll be participating in the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America. The conference is hosted by the United States and Mexico. It will take place on June 15th and 16th, and bring together a diverse group of government and business leaders from the United States, Mexico, Central America, and other countries to address the economic, security, and governance challenges, and also opportunities, in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The Secretary will attend the first day of the conference, which will focus on prosperity and economic growth. For a deeper dive into the objectives of the conference, we have two senior State Department officials with us. We’re joined by John Creamer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and Western Hemisphere Regional Economic Policy and Summit issues. We’re also joined by William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Okay, thank you. Thank you, gentlemen. We’ll start with Matt Lee from the Associated Press. Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks a lot, guys. I have a question about the elephant in the room here, which is Cuba, particularly given the speculation about changes in policy towards that. If, Assistant Secretary Brownfield, you’re right that the product that comes out of Central America turns right and goes – heads to Europe, that would put it – make it go right through Cuba. Can I ask why – recognizing this is a Central American and not a Caribbean thing, but why not invite them as an observer?

And secondly, I just want to make sure – Secretary Tillerson will only be there for the Thursday portion, is that correct?

MS NAUERT: Matt, let me get back to you on the Secretary’s schedule.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: And Matt, I’ll take the drug-related question that you have posed, which is the only basis upon which I will express a view on Cuba. The – at the end of the day, Cuba, along with most of the other nations in the Caribbean – in fact, all of them, I believe – is not participating in this Central America conference, I presume for the same reason that the other 14 or 15 Caribbean nations are not participating and the other 12 South American nations are not participating. It’s not a Western Hemisphere conference. It is a Central America conference and specifically a Northern Triangle conference.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you. Nick Wadhams from Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. Just to go back to the elephant in the room, as Matt put it, Cuba. And there are a lot of reports out there that President Trump will announce a new Cuba policy on Friday. And John, Cuba is one of your areas, so can you talk a little bit about State’s involvement in the review process on Cuba policy? Do you anticipate a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, and what’s your recommendation on that score? Thank you.

MR CREAMER: I would just note that we have been involved in a policy review since early this year. A policy review continues. Once we have the policy review completed, the President will announce the policy at the time and place of his choosing. But right now, the review is still underway and I don’t want to talk about the specifics of the review or try and prejudge its outcome.

Okay, let’s go to Reuters. Arshad Mohammed.

QUESTION: Yeah, two quick questions. One, do you have any expectation, even if the Cuba policy review is still ongoing, do you have any expectation that that will be completed by the end of the week?

MR CREAMER: The Cuba one’s easy. I’m not going to speculate on whence policy review will be completed. It’s already – it’s gone on for a couple of months now, and it will finish when it finishes.