U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to ask Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to pressure Cuba to make democratic reforms, when the pair meet at the White House today.
Cuba will be one of the main topics on the agenda now that the White House has moved toward normalizing relations with the island nation, a White House official said.
Improving relations with Cuba removes a point of friction in U.S. relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries that have normal diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba, according to the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.
The U.S. plans to discuss Cuba with other allies as well, the official said, without giving details.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, plans to travel this month to Havana for talks on U.S.-Cuba migration and to begin talks about normalization.
Obama last month made a surprise announcement that he was taking steps to end more than a half-century of U.S.-Cuba estrangement. The administration will ease some travel and financial restrictions and permit U.S. companies to export telecommunications equipment, agricultural commodities, construction supplies and materials for small businesses. The U.S. also will reopen its embassy in Havana.
The U.S. embargo of Cuba, first imposed in 1960 following the revolution that brought Fidel Castroto power, can only be lifted by an act of Congress.
Cuban-American lawmakers in Congress have vowed to block Obama’s action and have urged that all the restrictions remain in place until the government there, now led by Castro’s brother Raul Castro, releases political prisoners and permits greater freedom for Cuban citizens.
In announcing the change in policy, Obama argued that the embargo hasn’t had its desired effect, and it’s time for a new approach.
This is president Pena Nieto’s first trip to the White House since taking office two years ago.