News & Politics

White House: Two U.S. Officials Will Attend Castro Funeral -- But It's Not an 'Official Delegation'

White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Earnest discussed the funeral of Fidel Castro, flag-burning, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A high-ranking presidential adviser and the top U.S. diplomat will be in Cuba for the funeral of Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro but they are not part of an “official delegation,” according to the White House.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief U.S. diplomat in Havana, would attend the funeral, but emphasized that the two were not part of an official delegation to the service. This informal non-delegation would instead show the United States’ commitment to an “ongoing, future-oriented relationship with the Cuban people.”

An “official delegation,” AFP explained, “usually includes top officials, diplomats, lawmakers and other notables” (which sounds a lot like the two Obama officials attending Castro’s funeral).

“The president has decided not to send a presidential delegation to attend the memorial service today,” Earnest said.

Alrighty then.

Via McClatchy DC:

DeLaurentis is awaiting Senate confirmation to be U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

Earnest says Rhodes was already scheduled to be on the island this week. He notes that Rhodes played a leading role in crafting agreements to normalize relations with Cuba.

 

No senior White House officials were sent to the funeral of our staunchest Cold War ally, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Instead, President Obama sent the charge d’affaires at the US embassy in London, and the former ambassador to Britain, as well as former Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker. That drew the ire of the British press, with the UK Sun reporting, “A No 10 source said last night: ‘We are a little surprised by the White House’s reaction as we were expecting a high-profile attendance.” The Guardian said that the White House sent “distinctly low-key official representation.”

Likewise, when famed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle was murdered at a Texas shooting range in February 2013, not only did the White House make no statement, Obama sent no one at all to his funeral.

Earnest defended the the decision to send Rhodes and DeLaurentis to the Communist dictator’s funeral by saying it is “an appropriate way to show respect.”

“Obviously, so much of the diplomatic relationship with Cuba is quite complicated,” said Earnest. “We continue to have some significant concerns about the way the Cuban government operates, including protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people.”

“National Security Fabulist” Ben Rhodes, you may recall, bragged in a New York Times Magazine article last spring that the White House built an “echo chamber” of experts who sold a false narrative about the Iranian nuclear deal to young, often inexperienced reporters.

He is also credited with orchestrating a campaign from the White House to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”