Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barak Obama are both likely to pay a visit to Cuba before the end of their time in office. If they do, they will become the first people that hold their respective positions to visit the country since 1961.
In a historic announcement on Wednesday, Obama declared that the U.S. would restore and normalize diplomatic ties with the country just 90 miles from Florida, after nearly 60 years of isolation. Before Wednesday, Americans were not able to freely travel to Cuba. "If there is an opportunity for the president to visit, I'm sure he wouldn't turn it down," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Although the next elected president could overturn Obama’s policy change in 2016, the president said he hoped Congress would completely lift the U.S. embargo before his departure from the White House, according to Reuters. The Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson is scheduled to make a trip to Cuba in January for the next set of U.S.-Cuba Migration talks.
“I look forward to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba,” Kerry said in a press statement. “Promoting freedom of speech and entrepreneurship and an active civil society will only strengthen Cuban society and help to reintegrate Cuba into the international community.”
The policy change came after 18 months of secret talks between the two countries, mediated by the Vatican and Canada, according to Reuters.
Pope Francis congratulated the countries and hailed their efforts made "with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” according to the Associated Press.
Obama called the previous policy toward the country an "outdated approach."
“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse,” Obama said. “We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”