With visit, Obama aims to push acrimony with Cuba into past

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet children of U.S. sembassy staff in Havana. Photo: AP   | Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais

U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday for a 48-hour visit. Air Force One touched down at Havana’s airport late Sunday afternoon after a three-hour journey from Washington. The President was joined by wife Michelle Obama and daughters, Malia and Sasha, on the flight, with dozens of U.S. lawmakers and business leaders arriving separately for the visit.

The visit, the first by a U.S. President in 88 years, would have been unthinkable until Mr. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in December 2014 to end an estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution overthrew a pro-American government in 1959.

Mr. Obama joins Mr. Castro and a crowd of baseball-crazed Cubans for a game between the beloved national team and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. The President has also planned a speech at the Grand Theater of Havana, laying out his vision for greater freedoms and more economic opportunity in Cuba.

The latest updates (in IST):

4:05 am: Since rapprochement, the two sides have restored diplomatic ties, signed commercial deals on telecommunications and scheduled airline service, and expanded cooperation on law enforcement and environmental protection.

4.00 am: After greeting embassy staff, Mr. Obama and his family will tour Old Havana by foot, including the Havana Cathedral.

3.40 am: “This is a historic visit, and it’s an historic opportunity to engage with the Cuban people,” Mr. Obama said.

3.00 am: “Que boluba?” Mr. Obama tweeted on landing on Sunday, using Cuban slang to ask what’s going on. “Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”

2.45 am: Wielding an umbrella on a rainy Havana afternoon, President Obama stepped off of Air Force One and was greeted by top Cuban officials, including Cuba’s foreign minister and U.S. Ambassador.

2:10 am: The President’s schedule in Cuba is jam-packed, including official meetings with President Raul Castro and an event with U.S. and Cuban entrepreneurs. But much of Mr. Obama’s visit was about appealing directly to the Cuban people and celebrating the island’s vibrant culture.

2:05 am: Many Cubans are staying home in order to avoid extensive closures of main boulevards. By early afternoon, the Cuban government didn’t appear to be calling out crowds of supporters to welcome Mr. Obama, as it has with other visiting dignitaries. The city’s seaside Malecon promenade was largely deserted on Sunday morning except for a few cars, joggers, fishermen and pelicans.

1:57 am: Traveling with Michelle, her mother and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, the President will mostly play tourist on his first night on the Caribbean island, taking in the famous sights of Old Havana.

Cuba si! Yankee si!

Obama is the first serving U.S. President to visit Cuba after Calvin Coolidge in 1928

  • 1902: Cuba gets independence with Tomas Palma as president. But Platt Amendment gives the U.S a right to interfere in Cuban affairs
  • 1959: Fidel Castro leads a 9,000-strong guerrilla army into Havana forcing autocrat Batista to flee; Castro takes over
  • 1960: All U.S. businesses in Cuba are nationalised, U.S cuts off diplomatic ties; imposes embargo
  • 1962: Cuban missile crisis hits ties with U.S. as USSR deploys missiles
  • 1996: The Helms—Burton Act passed as a US. federal law, which strengthens the embargo
  • Dec 2014: Barack Obama and Raul Castro reach a deal to begin normalising ties
  • May 2015: U.S. officialy removes Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism

Calvin Coolidge

The Last serving U.S. President to visit Cuba

Cuba's Fidel Castro

with then U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon

Ex-President Jimmy Carter

During a visit to Cuba in May 2002

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 9:47:55 AM |

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