Obama Eyes Cuba Visit, Say Castro is Not 'An Ideologue'
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Obama Eyes Cuba visit, Says Castro is Not 'An Ideologue'

By Paul Bedard

President Obama is hopefully planning a visit to Cuba and sees longtime co-dictator Raul Castro, who has taken over for ailing brother Fidel, as a pragmatist, not "an ideologue."

In a newly released Yahoo interview, Obama said, "I am very much interested in going to Cuba, but I think the conditions have to be right."

The president told correspondent Olivier Knox, "My hope is that sometime next year we look at the conditions there and we say, you know what? Now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that's been made, but also maybe to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction."

President Obama participates in an interview with Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent, Yahoo! News, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Dec. 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

His comments come a year after the administration moved to normalize relations with the communist country that has been a decades-long target of U.S. economic and political sanctions.

Obama was complimentary of Castro.

"I do see in him a big streak of pragmatism. In that sense, I don't think he is an ideologue," said the president.

He added that Castro is even a forward thinker.

"I do also think that Raul Castro recognizes the need for change. And part of the reason for the timing of these changes is his desire to help usher in those changes before he and his brothers are gone. Because I think he views himself as having the stature to move Cuban society in ways that a successor might not," said Obama.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.