HAVANA – Secretary of State John Kerry will no longer be heading to Cuba later this month.
Concerns over the country's human rights record caused Kerry not to go forward with the plans to visit the island ahead of President Obama's March 21 trip. While in Cuba, Kerry was planning to discuss human rights with officials.
Obama's visit to Cuba will make him the first sitting president to make the journey in about 90 years.
"Secretary John Kerry's cancellation of his trip to Cuba should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the dismal human rights situation on the island," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement on Thursday.
"When he testified in the House and the Senate I, along with my colleagues, Congressmen Albio Sires, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Bob Menendez all grilled him on whether he was aware of the mass arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights activists since President Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the Communist regime.
"Since December 17, 2014, we have seen a massive increase of Cubans desperately leaving the island in order to seek refuge in the United States and a continual systemic harassment of the Cuban people who seek freedom and democracy. I hope that President Obama sees the folly of his visit, which legitimizes the oppressive Castro regime, and cancels his visit, which only gives the oppressors the green light to continue repressing those who seek their fundamental human rights."