President Barack Obama said he is "very much" interested in visiting Cuba before his presidency ends, but only if there are reforms made to secure civil liberties in the island nation.
"If I go on a visit, then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody," the president told Yahoo News in an interview published on Monday. The interview was part of a series that marks one year since the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba. "I've made very clear in my conversations directly with President [Raul] Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba."
Obama said that he hopes he and his aides would look at progress made in Cuba and come to a decision about travelling there "sometime next year."
President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December 2014 that they would normalize relations between the two countries after decades of broken ties. Embassies have reopened in Havana and Washington as part of the re-establishing of relations. While Obama has taken executive action to ease the embargo, it remains in place. Only Congress has the ability to completely remove the embargo.
On the topic of allowing more economic exchanges between the US and Cuba, Obama told Yahoo News he would be "selective and cautious" in using his executive powers.
"If they want the full benefits economically of normalization, then we can make some determinations about how the embargo is implemented currently, and more importantly we can make more forceful arguments to Congress about lifting the embargo of they've made some more substantial reforms," the president said.