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Barack Obama Could Visit Cuba in His Last Year in Office

January 4, 2016, 4:26 PM UTC
Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) gestures in response to a reporter's question during a meeting with US President Barack Obama (R) on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograh by Mandel Nga—AFP/Getty Images

In the next few weeks, the White House will decide if President Barack Obama’s last year in office will include a historic trip to Cuba.

Briefing reporters over the weekend, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that the president could visit Cuba as a way to push the communist country to improve its human rights record.

The Obama administration launched a historic thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014 by ending a 54-year standoff with its island neighbor. In what was a landmark address at the time, President Obama said that the U.S. would re-open its embassy in Havana and allow some travel and trade between the countries that had been banned under the embargo that had lasted for decades.

But the White House still wants the island nation to improve treatment of its citizens—such as giving people more access to information and the Internet—and ignite more economic activity by letting private corporations operate in the country.

“The key test for us is whether the president’s going to Cuba would help advance those priorities,” Rhodes told Reuters.

Such steps could help preserve America’s renewed relationship with Cuba, which is a priority for the White House as the 2016 election nears. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, for instance, has vowed to undo the president’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.