President Obama doesn’t believe he’ll be setting foot in Havana anytime soon.
Though the president on Wednesday announced sweeping changes to U.S. policies that appear to usher in the end of a Cold War-style approach to Cuba, Obama at a press conference Friday said the two countries aren’t ready for presidential visits just yet.
He made the comment after press secretary Josh Earnest had said earlier this week that Obama would be open to such travel, and refused to rule out the possibility that Cuban President Raúl Castro could visit the White House. Obama is expected to travel through Latin America next year, and there was some speculation he could add Cuba to that trip.
“If there's an opportunity for the president to visit, I'm sure he wouldn't turn it down,” Earnest said, adding that he assumed “like many Americans, he has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do.”
Separately, Obama said he did not expect Congress to move quickly to remove the embargo against Cuba.
While the president moved unilaterally to ease some trade and travel restrictions, and announced plans to reestablish an embassy in Cuba, a full repeal of the embargo would only be possible through congressional action.
Obama said he believed that the embargo “has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we're interested in.”
“But I don't anticipate that that happens right away,” he said. “I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there's any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts.”
Obama also declined to chart out goals for how Cuba would change under his new policy.
“I think it'd be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be,” Obama said. “But change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They've got an economy that doesn't work.”