Obama Arrives in Cuba, Dissidents Arrested

March 20, 2016 | Print Print |
Obama arrived in Havana on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Photo: Ismael Franciso/cubadebate.cu

Obama arrived in Havana on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Photo: Ismael Franciso/cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba after the 1959 revolution. He arrived in Havana in the afternoon for a three-day visit during which he will meet with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, reported dpa news.

The Twitter account of President published a first message of greeting to Cubans moments after Air Force One touched down at 4:18 p.m. local time. ¿Que bolá? said the message, a popular slang greeting often used by younger Cubans.

“Just landed here, waiting to meet and hear directly from Cubans,” the president said in English.

Expectations about Obama’s visit through Tuesday are enormous. In addition to seeing Raul Castro, the US leader will meet with Cuban dissidents and deliver a nationally televised speech from the Havana Grand Theater, in the heart of the city.

According to White House staff, Obama has no plans to see former President Fidel Castro.

The visit is a milestone in the historic thaw the two countries announced in December 2014, after decades of ideological hostilities, which also negatively affected Washington’s relations with Latin America.

Washington and Havana resumed diplomatic relations in July 2015 with the subsequent reopening of embassies in the respective capitals.

Obama arrived on the island with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia, as well as a large delegation of senators, congress and business people and athletes.

After meeting  with officials at the US Embassy, the Obamas will begin their visit with a stroll through the colonial center of Old Havana. The president will also meet at the Cathedral with the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, one of the few negotiators recognized by the Communist Party outside the Castro government apparatus on the island.

Dissidents arrested before Obama arrived

A Ladies in White protest was dispersed and dozens arrested hours before Obama arrived to Cuba. Photo: Reuters/#TodosMarchamos

A Ladies in White protest was dispersed and dozens arrested hours before Obama arrived to Cuba. Photo: Reuters/#TodosMarchamos

Dozens of dissidents were arrested hours before the arrival of Obama. The arrests took place around noon in the neighborhood of Miramar, during the march organized every Sunday by the Ladies in White opposition group.

“There is a deliberate climate of political repression on the island for the visit of President Obama,” human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez told dpa, in a telephone conversation.

Obama’s official program begins in Havana on Monday.

After laying a wreath to the Cuban national hero Jose Marti in the Plaza of the Revolution, Obama will then meet with his counterpart Raul Castro in the neighboring Palace of the Revolution.

In the afternoon the US leader will hold a forum with representatives of the emerging private sector of the island. The meeting is to take place at the artistic space Cuban Art Factory and is one of the events with which Obama wants to show his support for an opening of the economy by the Castro government.

Since Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006, he has opened limited spaces to small private enterprise after decades of a full state monopoly. Roughly 5% of Cubans have taken out licenses to work as “self-employed”, according to official figures.

On Tuesday morning, Obama will deliver an unprecedented speech to Cubans from the Havana Grand Theater. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that the address will be broadcast live on state television even if it contains criticism of the Castro government.

Obama will meet later with a dozen opponents of the Castro government at the US embassy. The president had indicated on several occasions that meeting with dissidents was a must if he traveled to Havana.

On Tuesday afternoon Obama will attend a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. Baseball raises passions on both sides of the Florida Straits.

The rapprochement with Cuba is part of a new policy of Obama during his last year in office. The US president wants to promote greater openness on the island through dialogue. Meanwhile, Cuba says it will continue “updating” its socialist system.


What's your opinion?

  • oscarkilpat@gmail.com

    Since this is the type nation that Oliar has striven to make the U.S., perhaps he could just keep his communistic rear-end there and spare us any more of the goofy decisions he has made.

  • Jones Able

    NO country is now better off since the USA has become involved, may countries have asked USA to leave, I wonder why?

    • Moses Patterson

      Name one. ….

      • Richard

        Iraq

        • Moses Patterson

          We were not asked to leave Iraq. But I am glad we did.

      • southvalley

        I can: Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Greece ad infinitum

        • Informed Consent

          Egypt, Greece? ….please do tell.

        • Moses Patterson

          Iraq and Afghanistan? Fun times in those countries. Egypt and Greece? We were never ‘there’. Try again.

      • Informed Consent

        …They’re coming out of the woodwork Moses. I guess they’re googling Cuba and Obama and Havanatimes.org is coming high on the search results. Well at least Circles is getting some good site traffic out of this. I’m sure his numbers have spiked.

      • Jones Able

        You must really get out and smell the roses. Moses, have a good long look at the world around you, quit believing all the BS you are fed on a regular basis by USA government , any country in the middle east is now worse off than they were before the USA became involved. How much longer do you think USA can last before claiming bankruptcy…. its going to happen, you and I cannot continually run our finances in the red without suffering the consequences, debt and deficit are totally different items. the USA is already talking what’s in it for them to drop the embargo……like give your head a shake, as a country it appears the USA has not been able to handle its own affairs….all glitz and glitter…. no substance.

        • Moses Patterson

          As I said name one. By the way, take a look at how the countries in the Middle East were doing BEFORE the US arrived?

    • Derelerembius

      Leave the US, and stay gone

      • Jones Able

        Never lived in USA and never will, in fact after 30 years of traveling all over USA, have no intentions of ever returning, so rest assured I will remain GONE.

  • mike

    Please tell me the diff between Trumps protesters being thrown out of a rally and Cuban protesters being arrested when the perpatraitor in chief shows up………….
    What a scumbag and useless country wrecker that POS is. Obama should be on trial for sedition.

    • Moses Patterson

      Scumbag? A little harsh. But, I defend your right to express your opinion. Which is more than you would have if you lived in Cuba.

    • LogicDesigner

      You have it backwards. Obama made it a point to demand that he be able to meet with Cuban dissidents, much to the chagrin of the Cuban government. Dissidents are being arrested by the government in order to minimize their visibility and contact with Obama.

      Maybe there is some commonality between the Cuban government’s suppression of dissent and the actions of Trump’s campaign. Trump has stated that if he becomes President, he wants to make it easier to sue newspapers over what they report.

      • Willie Brown

        So you think it is ok for news agencies to destroy peoples lives knowing they can hide behind big lawyers (pronounced LY-ERS”)

        • LogicDesigner

          I’d much, much, much rather live in a country with a free press. Maybe you would feel more comfortable in North Korea?

        • LogicDesigner

          I’m curious what your thoughts are on suing newspapers now that the National Enquirer has published an evidence-free story about Cruz’s supposed adultery. A story where the only person quoted by name is longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone. And Trump is a longtime close friend of the CEO of the National Enquirer.

          Trump has his fingerprints all over this. Are you equally eager to have the National Enquirer be sued?

          • mike

            YUP!

  • Informed Consent

    Reports are appearing everywhere about the increased level of repression. Here’s a story in athe Guardian:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/20/cuba-obama-visit-anti-castro-protesters-clash

  • N.J. Marti

    Historic change. America is the most successful country in the history of the world. Cuba has much to gain from this new relationship. For those that fear change, Cuba will only change on it’s own terms.

  • Paul Z

    I hope they washed the smell of p*ss all around the Cuban government buildings.

    • Goldwaterite

      In fact, when Raul p*ssed all over Obama at the news conference, BO just thought it was still raining.

  • mickrussom

    This is the equivalent of visiting North Korea. This is treason. Fidel Castro once begged Kruschev to start a PREEMPTIVE nuclear strike against the USA. Read it – this is what Kruschev wrote to Castro on October 28 after Castro asked for a preemptive strike on the 27th:

    In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to launch a nuclear strike against the territory of the enemy. You, of course, realize where that would have led. Rather than a simple strike, it would have been the start of a thermonuclear world war.”

    Obama is a war criminal and a traitor now. He should be imprisoned.

    • Eden Wong

      Which decade do you actually live in?

      Your hatred of the common Cuba people is disgusting.

    • Mark Mallard

      Save your anti-Obama rhetoric. Is it treason to visit Japan or to buy their cars? Or Germany? “Obama is a war criminal”. Right. Idiot.

    • runswithbeer

      President Obama can go anywhere on the Planet he wants, read the friggin Constitution for Pete’s sake. We INVADED CUBA REMEMBER. AND PUT NUCLEAR MISSILES IN TURKEY RIGHT ON THE RUSSIA BORDER. And boycotted Cuba for 50 years. For what? Cause we don’t like Socialism? This is America, and I’m a friggin Socialist. Get over it. Nixon went to China.

    • That’s not going to happen. Not even the most virulent candidate advocates for it. Thus, your bitterness will not be alleviated.

    • southvalley

      Old nooz and not treason.
      I remember the Cold War, the bay of Pigs, fearing a nuclear attack and being told to “duck and cover” do you?
      This is all part of bringing the Western Hemisphere under the dominance of the USA.I doubt it will redound to their benefit
      We’ve punished these people long enough. I can only hope that we don’t punish them some more with “trade agreements”

    • Moses Patterson

      Obama, in 2008, ran a campaign and won an election based on his vision of engagement. There are people who disagree with that strategy. Sounds like you are one of them. When are people like you going to accept the fact that you lost the election. …twice?

  • Vicktor Skarsgard

    Protesting on the day of Obama’s arrival was either incredibly stupid and asking for it, or incredibly smart PR and asking for it… I wonder if people know to question which one…

    • Mark Mallard

      Or maybe this “Havana Times” has nothing to do with news from Havana but is more propaganda from the Cubans in the US.

      • Moses Patterson

        HT writers live in Cuba with few exception. Regardless of where they are writing from, if what they write is the truth what difference does it make?

      • Vicktor Skarsgard

        Yes that 1992 header of theirs clearly says they have USA resources and are US Cubans spreading their malicious propaganada. Open your mind. You don’t have to go all the way one way. You can agree with X and still criticize other parts of it. Look at the big picture. Stop thinking everything is black and white.

      • Vicktor Skarsgard

        Why do you say that

  • skip lee

    Is this not proof of how out of touch this guy is?…the Cuban government still murders and tortures its people…allows little to no freedom in anything that is everyday life….,yet he smiles and walks down the ramp as if his presence will change it all…maybe we should ask Egypt how his BS has worked for them or maybe Syria or Iraq or libya…..or the American blue collar worker…hey ask the hard working black person what they think of all his Talk and smiles that turned out to be be empty BS..

    • Jesse Baker

      Funny you mentioned that. I’m trying to think of another country whose badge-wearing officials are known for murdering and torturing its own citizens. Any chance you could help jog my memory?

      • Willie Brown

        I can.. since Obama took office he has removed more of our freedoms and worked harder to confiscate guns, permitted big brother to eavesdrop on anyone at any time, on and on. Biggest hairball I ever saw a cat cough up. EVER.

        • Informed Consent

          Really? I was unaware I had lost any of my freedoms. Perhaps you can so kind as to let me know. What steps the government has taken to “confiscate” my guns. I’m still the happy owner of a Colt 45 and a Ruger Red Label over under. As for “big brother eavesdropping” I was under the impressions that those policies began under president bush just after 911

    • Moses Patterson

      On behalf of the hard working black people you mentioned, we continue to support our President by an overwhelming margin. We realize that, at every turn, people who think the way you do, rise to oppose his every move. We have a pretty good idea why.

  • Mark Mallard

    Go to the “About Us” tab on the main page of this website. They state they are writing from Havana and will express negative opinions of the Cuban Government. Either they are bald faced liars and are sitting right here in the US, or this site is the biggest evidence that there IS a free press in Cuba. YOU figure out which it is. I don’t have the time. Regardless, while I appreciate and encourage a free press in Cuba itself, using this for the purposes of the conservative Republican Tea Party and Cuban exile alliance to spread propaganda in the US is just wrong. This is not Castro propaganda in Cuba, but conservative propaganda being fed to the US.

    • Informed Consent

      The writings are from Cuba, the comments likely not. Since internet access is scarce and expensive in Cuba most of the writers submit their stories via email. Few in Cuba access this site directly due to direct and indirect censorship.

      I have an idea. Instead of dismissing comments critical of the Castro regime, why not engage in a dialog and express your disagreement. It would make for better reading and add value to the website.

  • Luis Efrain Sanchez

    The Presidents of the USA have visited Japan, Germany, Russia, USSR, China…..Cuba is not even in the same league as these other “former” enemies of the USA. Enough is enough. I am first generation Cuban born in Brooklyn as a result of my mother and father meeting in the US. My mothers father was Luis Seijas admiral of the Navy, Batista was my mother’s Godfather. My father knew Luis Crespo who was one of Castro’s guerillas and secured the gramma from Mexico. My parents are from two completely different sides and they have managed to be together for 54 years of marriage. Enough is enough. It is also time that the truth be told that Castro requested help from Eisenhower at the onset of his leadership and was turned down. Only after two years of misery and economic problems of the embargo did Cuba seek to further relationship with Kruschev. The USA is not entirely guiltless in this travesty of human suffering. This relationship should of been developed in 1959. As far as dictatorships go ruling with an iron fist/human rights violations have always existed for enemies of the state and we have turned a blind eye to such from other dictatorships as well. Batista was no angel and neither was Kadafi, Hussein, and a host of others. I applaud Obama for delivering on what he promised to do 8 years ago. One of the few Presidents who delivered on promises and kept US soldiers from dying un necessarily throughout the world looking for reasons to battle. In fact it was Obama leadership that apprehended Bin Laden not Bush. Cooperation and development is the key, not omission.

    • FinalMythology

      I’m afraid you’re seriously mistaken about Barack ‘Hussein’ Obama. The US military hates him and vice-versa. Obama quickly took the credit for the Bin Laden raid which I thought was pretty selfish of him. Don’t forget this guy received his money from banks, insurance, big pharma drug companies. He serves the corporate elite not the people. Whatever he has planned for Cuba isn’t good and no one will gain freedoms from it.

      • Moses Patterson

        President Obama is the Commander-in-Chief. He made the ultimate go-or-no-go decision. Of course he took the credit his office deserves. Had the mission failed, people who think like you would be quick to lay blame on him. Yet you deny him the credit for its success. Many who oppose Obama do so for reasons outside of his policies. These people are easy to spot because their criticism is often irrational, much like your comment.

  • DimonfrontrunsJPM

    Perhaps the protesters didn’t want Hussein’s plane to land…they already have enough problems.

  • 2star

    USA made fool to her stanch allies ( E.U ). Today most the E.U. nations pay homage to China rather than US. Without much friends around, US now has to bow low to her former archenemy.

  • 2star

    USA made fool to her once stanch allies ( E.U ). Today most of the E.U. nations pay homage to China rather than US. Without much friend around, US now has to bow low to her former archen*my.

    • Informed Consent

      Hahaha. Can you tell me where I can see the rest of your stand up comedy act?

      • 2star

        Thank You. Did you gave me a standing ovation on my Obama’s comedian act.

  • As a Cuban who has the ability to travel back as I choose I am here now.. I am like those young ppl whom I speak with while visiting..I have many grandchildren ,primos, primas tia tios cunadas etc who also want to see Cuba transition. I admit to having changed my own beliefs over time to those which are similar to what the Cuban youth are telling me
    .I do not want to see Cubas traditions to change
    I do not want to see our culture over whelmed or taken over my ENGLISH and/or amercan –isms LOL Surely my pais must change it must release dissidents, allow free speech, allow free elections all while standing its ground.

    i DO NOT WANT MY COUNTRY TO SELL OUT and become a Puerto Rico or a mafia haven OR to become a big America business and more than anything I would love to see my nation FREE from Racism ( Por favor Dios)
    As an Afro Cuban american I know what happens when the color of my skin vs the content of a persons charcater takes a front seat I would love to see A Marti transition.. Am I dreaming?

    • Informed Consent

      Although I do not necessarily disagree with your comments, it is, in my opinion, a bit late to worry about the contamination or alteration of Cuban society and its culture. That already took place under the Castro. When a Cuban thinks back yo the peak hay day of Socialist Cuba and fondly remember “carne russa” (canned Soviet mystery meat) and not the traditional Tasajo (for example), that is an abomination. An actual dissolution of Cuban culture. Indeed the Castro’s have singlehandedly done more to distroy Cuban culture over the last 56 years than anything or anyone else. ….come to Miami if you want to experience true Cuban culture and Cuisine. It is, for the most part, no longer to be found in Cuba

    • Jones Able

      Well written, I agree.