The Obama administration sent a fresh signal Monday that new rules on family travel and remittances to Cuba are coming soon, and may be announced before President Obama attends the Summit of the Americas on April 17.
Before he was elected president, Obama promised to ease restrictions Cuban-American travel to visit family in the island nation, and ability to send those relatives money. He will sit down with 33 of his fellow leaders at the summit in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
The White House adviser for the summit, Jeffrey Davidow, would not say Monday when the Obama administration might announce the easing of the restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. “I really could not say,” he said. “But I would not be surprised if it came before the summit… they’re going to happen, I can’t tell you exactly when.”
Davidow also said he hoped that discussions of Cuba would not dominate the summit. “It would be unfortunate if the principal theme of this meeting turned out to be Cuba… I think there are a lot of very important issues that warrant discussion, whether it is economic issues, social inclusion, the environment, public safety,” Davidow said at a State Department briefing.
The U.S. maintains that Cuba, which Washington calls an undemocratic state, should not participate in the summit, a gathering of democratically elected leaders.
Davidow said the president would have time during the summit to meet Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the United States in the past, saying the Obama’s schedule still has not been finalized.. “The structure of the meeting itself in Trinidad offers ample opportunities for discussions among the presidents… the President is going to Trinidad with the interest and desire of talking to all of his colleagues.”
He said Mr. Obama was going to listen, not to deliver a grand plan for the hemisphere. “He’s going with the intention of listening, discussing, dealing with his colleagues as partners,” Davidow said.
Some reports say the U.S. delegation could include as many as a thousand people. “I don’t know the exact size of the delegation,” Davidow said. “But it is large. And the fact of the matter is that most of the people who travel on these delegations are there for purposes of security, for purposes of communication… It doesn’t seem to me to be any way out of the ordinary from past presidential visits.”