White House: decision on Obama Cuba trip in next couple months

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Cuban President Raul Castro meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jeff Mason HONOLULU (Reuters) - The White House will decide in the next couple months about a potential trip by President Barack Obama to Cuba and wants both countries to take steps to ensure the thaw in relations is irreversible, U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on Saturday. Rhodes, who was a key architect of the shift in U.S. strategy to the island nation, said Washington wanted to see Cuba improve its record on human rights and spur greater economic activity such as allowing private companies to operate in the communist country. Cuba also needed to give its people more access to information and the Internet, he said. "The key test for us is whether the president’s going to Cuba would help advance those priorities,” Rhodes told reporters in Hawaii, where Obama is vacationing. "That’s something I think we’ll make a decision about ... in the next couple months." A trip by a U.S. president would be historic and the White House is eager to use that leverage to press Cuba to make reforms. Obama has made clear he is eager to visit the country before he leaves office next year. (Reporting by Jeff Mason, Editing by W Simon)