Ben Rhodes says that the embargo will be lifted "sooner than people think"
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser of President Barack Obama said at a forum on "cultural diplomacy" with Cuba held on Thursday June 9 at the Meridian International Center in Washington DC, that reopening of relations with Cuba is "irreversible”.
The senior White House official said remaining legislative restrictions on relations between the two countries — including a U.S. travel ban and trade embargo — are likely to be lifted by Congress “sooner than people think.”
“The fact of the matter is that the American people and the Cuban people overwhelmingly want this to happen,” Rhodes said. “Frankly, whatever the political realities in either country, for somebody to try to turn this off, they would have to be working against the overwhelming desires of their own people. “That ship has sailed,” he said.
Obama has used his executive authority to implement all of the Cuba actions he has taken thus far. But only Congress can repeal the embargo and other sanctions adopted through legislation over the past half-century.
His optimistic words were corroborated even by Republican (Minnesota), Congressman Tom Emmer, one of 22 members of both parties who belong to a House working group on the issue, told the Meridian House audience that “73 percent of Americans are in favor of lifting the embargo. It’s no longer a question of if, but when.”
Thursday’s conference included a number of U.S. business and cultural leaders who have taken advantage of the opening and are pressing to widen it. Some were critical of the slowness with which the Cuban government has opened its own doors to economic reforms that would allow greater participation there.