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President Obama and Vice President Biden will not attend the funeral of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the White House said Monday.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters to “stay tuned” as to which top U.S. officials, if any, would attend the funeral, scheduled for Dec. 4.
Top Republicans have urged Obama not to attend the ceremony for Castro, 90, who died over the weekend.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tweeted Saturday that Obama, Biden and Secretary of State John KerryJohn Kerry Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington Biden confirms 30 percent global methane reduction goal, urges 'highest possible ambitions' 9/11 and US-China policy: The geopolitics of distraction MORE should “under no circumstance” go to Cuba for Castro’s funeral.
Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Fla.), a Cuban-American, said that sending a high-level representative to the funeral would only burnish the legacy of a longtime U.S. adversary who carried out human-rights abuses against his own citizens.
“I would hope they would send no one to the funeral,” Rubio told Fox News on Saturday.
Obama faced criticism for issuing a relatively anodyne statement on Castro’s death, saying the former leader “altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” he wrote.
Earnest pushed back on that criticism, saying that the president’s policy of openness toward Cuba is the best way to force the country to make reforms and expand freedoms for its people.
“There certainly is no whitewashing the kinds of activities that he ordered and that his government presided over that go against the very values that our country has long defended,” the spokesman told reporters.
The question for the U.S. president, he said, is “are we going to be rooted in that past or are we going to look to the future?”
Obama has pursued a major thaw in relations with Cuba; in March he become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island in 88 years. He met with Cuban leader Raúl Castro as well as dissident groups and members of civil society.
But Obama did not meet with Fidel Castro, the current leader’s brother, during his visit.