President Barak Obama made history today as the first sitting president to visit Cuba since 1928. The last sitting president to visit the island, just 90 miles from Florida, was Calvin Coolidge who arrived by navel battleship.
The President’s visit is another step towards his goal of normalizing relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961 when President Eisenhower closed the American embassy in Havana and severed diplomatic relations.
What followed was war, political and physical. The American government launched plot after plot to take out Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.
When running for office in 2008 President Obama made promises that he would work hard to improve the relationship between the United States and Cuba.
“It’s time for a new alliance of the America’s. It’s time to turn the page on the arrogance of Washington and the anti-Americanism across the region that stands in the way of progress.” The then presidential nominee said in a speech at the Cuban American National Foundation.
The progress has been slow-moving but the effects are starting to be seen.
In 2014 President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba after Pope Francis personally sent letters to President Obama and Raúl Castro, urging them to ease the tensions between the two countries. After 18 months of diplomatic meetings hosted by the Vatican and Canada, the the two leaders agreed to restore diplomatic ties though congress has not lifted the embargo on the island. The agreement freed an American that was being held in Cuba.
The Pope visited Cuba in September of last year.
Just days ago President Obama announced moves to further lift U.S. restrictions on Cuba. He eased travel restrictions for Americans to visit Cuba, allowed American companies to hire Cuban nationals; and adjusted the banking system to process money from Cuba in the U.S.
Last month, the U.S. and Cuba agreed to authorize daily commercial flights between the two countries, and the government is currently considering applications. American Airlines has applied to fly to Cuba.
As President Obama arrived he stopped to tweet “¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”
President Obama arrived Sunday afternoon accompanied by First Lady, Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha and a group of other Americans including the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, business executives and members of congress.
The First Family will stay in a grand embassy mansion, the rest of the group traveling with them are scattered at various hotels around Cuba. Prices of the rooms are said to have more than doubled as the Americans arrived
For many of the American journalists covering the President’s visit it is also their first visit to Cuba. Covering this event is as significant, if not more, as any major event that has happened in international politics in the last few years. It is for many a first look at the island which appears in some ways, lost in time.
President Obama has a full schedule while in Cuba on this historic visit. He will visit with Havana’s Archbishop, attend a traditional State dinner and meet with President Raul Castro. Tuesday he will give a much anticipated and historical speech to the Cuban people in the same Cuban theater where President Coolidge addressed the Pan American Conference. The president will also attend and exhibition game between the Tampa Ray Devil Rays and the Cuban National team. Also scheduled are talks with entrepreneurs, artists and dissidents.
Not everyone is delighted with the president’s visit,
“To this day, this is a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and to fugitives,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Unfortunately, it is doubtful that the president will bring up the need for reform during his visit.”
I can’t wait to see what comes of the president’s visit to Cuba. I’m excited about the prospects of visiting one day myself. It’s time we stop fighting the battles of people no longer around to fight them for themselves. We are an advanced generation, things must be done in different ways. Finally we have a president bold enough to break the mold.
What do you think of the president’s visit to Cuba?