President Barack Obama will be sending two representatives of the U.S. to the funeral of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
According to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, Obama doesn’t plan to send an “official delegation” to Castro’s funeral, but he will be sending Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Ambassador Jeff DeLaurentis, the administration’s top diplomat in Cuba.
The move was an attempt by Obama to continue strengthening U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties while not honoring Castro with a “formal” U.S. delegation, Earnest told reporters.
“Obviously, so much of the diplomatic relationship with Cuba is quite complicated,” Earnest said, according to USA Today. “We continue to have some significant concerns about the way the Cuban government operates, including protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people.”
Earnest told reporters that Rhodes was already scheduled to be in Cuba this week, while noting the major role he played in restoring Cuban-American diplomatic relations.
Earnest also called the U.S. representation an “appropriate way to show respect,” according to the Associated Press.
According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, Rhodes and DeLaurentis will also represent the U.S. at a memorial service for Castro Tuesday night.
WH clarifies. @rhodes44 and Amb DeLaurentiis representing US at Castro memorial service tonight. But no official US delegation to funeral.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 29, 2016
Castro’s funeral is set for Sunday.
Still, Obama’s decision to send any U.S. representatives — whether official or not — is sure to upset many in the Cuban-American community. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), both of Cuban descent, made it very clear over the weekend that they thought Obama should send no U.S. representative to honor Castro in any way.
TheBlaze has reached out to both Cruz and Rubio for comment on Obama’s decision.