Obama Readies to Visit CubaFebruary 18, 2016 | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — President Barack Obama will travel to Cuba “in the coming weeks”, two unnamed White House sources told dpa news on Wednesday.
Obama will be the first US president to visit the island in 88 years. The last US president to travel to Cuba was Republican Calvin Coolidge in January 1928 on the occasion of the Sixth International Conference of American States.
Jimmy Carter traveled to the island in 2002, but when he was no longer president.
The sources said that Obama will make “a trip to Latin America, including Cuba, in the coming weeks”. However they did not indicate the exact date of the trip and the countries included in the visit, apart from Cuba.
Several US media claimed that the trip will take place in March, citing unnamed sources.
Since the announcement in December 2014 of the thaw between Washington and Havana, experts have speculated that Obama will visit Cuba after the November presidential election in the United States and before he leaves office in January 2017.
Obama has repeatedly urged Congress in Republican hands, to lift the embargo on Cuba, considered by Washington and Havana an obstacle to normalizing relations between the two countries.
Surely Obama’s visit to Cuba will stir the waters of the campaign for the November elections, as most of the Republican candidates oppose Obama’s new policy towards Cuba and advocate maintaining the embargo on the island.
Two Republican candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are of Cuban origin. And Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, home of the Cuban exile community. All three oppose the rapprochement with Cuba.
Billionaire Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who has come out in favor of the new approach to the island, but believes that the US government should negotiate a better deal.
On the other hand, the Democratic Party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both support Obama’s policy towards Cuba and call for lifting the embargo and restrictions on US citizens traveling to the island. Cuba is the only country in the world where they are prohibited from going as tourists.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro surprised everyone in December 2014 announcing the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana, after more than half a century of disruption and ideological confrontation between the two countries. The announcement was preceded by 18 months of secret negotiations.
US and Cuba formally resumed bilateral relations in July 2015. A month later, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, officially opened the US Embassy on the Malecon in Havana, becoming the first head of US diplomacy to visit Cuba in 70 years.
Also read: Obama sets date for Cuba trip: March 21-22.