"As we considered whether to go this year to Cuba, the President's judgment was that, number one. Going to Cuba was an important step forward in signaling this new beginning between our two countries and peoples," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Rhodes said there has been a sea change in US-Cuban relations over the last year and a half since Obama and his Cuban counterpart announced on December 17, 2014 that they would have a process of normalising relations.

During his two-day trip, Obama is unlikely to meet the ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro. "I wouldn't expect him to meet with Fidel Castro. Raul Castro is now the president of Cuba. He'll certainly meet with President Castro," he said.

The Obama Administration, he said, believes not going and isolating Cuba doesn't serve to advance the issues of concerns to the US and the international community.

"That we will be in a better position to support human rights, and to support a better life for the Cuban people by engaging them and raising these issues directly," he said.

"Whether that's individual human rights cases we're concerned about, whether that's the types of reforms that could broaden opportunity for the Cuban people, or whether that's just how do we directly engage Cuban civil society, so that we are speaking out for the values that we support?" he said.

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