Obama, Raúl Castro expected to meet in Panama City

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President Obama is expected to speak with Cuban President Raúl Castro at this week’s Summit of the Americas, the White House said Tuesday.

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Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters there will not be a formal meeting between the two leaders, but they will likely have a chance to meet.

“I’m sure that President Obama will be interacting with President Castro at the summit events as leaders gather on the margins of those events,” Rhodes said on a conference call.

U.S. officials revealed last week that Obama and Castro would interact at the gathering of leaders from the Western Hemisphere in Panama City, which runs April 10-11. But the format of the encounter had not been clear.

The informal meeting will be the first between Obama and Castro since the U.S. president announced in December he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Some members of Congress and business leaders applauded the move to re-establish ties with Cuba, saying it ended a failed policy of isolation and will expand trade and travel with Cuba

But many Republicans, and some Democrats, have dismissed it as a giveaway to the Castro regime, saying it does nothing to address human rights abuses and restrictions on free speech on the island.

U.S. and Cuban officials have held three rounds of talks since December to form new diplomatic ties. A sticking point in the process is Cuba’s demand that the U.S. remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama said the State Department would review Cuba’s status on the list in December.

Rhodes said Tuesday that review is nearing its conclusion.

Obama and Castro last met in person in 2013 in South Africa, when they shook hands at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.