PResident Obama Arrives In Cuba For Historic Trip
President Barack Obama is the first President of the United States to visit the nation of Cuba, still a Communist nation, in nearly a century.
Air Force One arrived in Havana, Cuba in the late afternoon on Sunday officially beginning his three-day trip in the nation. He is expected to meet with President Raul Castro, private Cuban citizens, and the delivering a speech to mark the occasion.
¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.
— President Obama (@POTUS) March 20, 2016
The Hill reports:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Sen. Dick Durbin(D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joined the president aboard Air Force One along with first ladyMichelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson.
“I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people,” Obama wrote on his Twitter account last month. “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.”
Obama has already taken steps to rebuild relations with Cuba, which has been isolated from the U.S. for five decades over Cold War-era divisions.
Last summer, the U.S. and Cuba reopened embassies, and earlier this year the Obama administration eased travel and trade restrictions between the two countries.
Cubans have been preparing for the Obama visit, with plainclothes officers reportedly blanketing the capital of Havana and public works crews laying down asphalt in pothole-laden streets.
Cuban police arrested several dozen protesters Sunday in Havana, just hours before Obama landed, AFP reported.
Some of protesters were from the Ladies in White, a group formed by wives of former political prisoners. Police arrested them outside a church where they attempt to hold protests almost every Sunday.
Though many Cubans are reportedly excited for the first visit from a U.S. president in nearly a century, there’s one Cuban who will be absent from Obama’s diplomatic meetings: Fidel Castro, the country’s 89-year-old retired president.
“Neither we nor the Cubans have pursued such a meeting,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters last week, according to ABC News. “He’ll be meeting with Raúl Castro as the President of Cuba,” Rhodes continued. “That’s the appropriate government-to-government engagement, and so that’s what he’ll be pursuing.”