Obama planning historic visit to Cuba

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will pay an historic visit to Cuba in the coming weeks, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, becoming the first president to step foot on the island in nearly nine decades.

See Full Article

The brief visit in mid-March will mark a watershed moment for relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a communist nation estranged from the U.S. for half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved to relaunch ties in 2014. Since then, the nations have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.

Obama's stop in Cuba will part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip hasn't been officially announced. The White House planned to unveil Obama's travel plans Thursday.

Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba - including Republican presidential candidates.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1950s, said Obama shouldn't visit while the Castro family remains in power. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he called an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

"Today, a year and two months after the opening of Cuba, the Cuban government remains as oppressive as ever," Rubio said on CNN. Told of Obama's intention to visit, he added, "Probably not going to invite me."

With less than a year left in office, Obama has been eager to make rapid progress on restoring economic and diplomatic ties to cement the rapprochement with Cuba that his administration started. Following secret negotiations between their governments, Obama and Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties, and months later held the first face-to-face meeting between an American and Cuban president since 1958.

But Obama, facing steadfast opposition to normalized relations from Republicans and some Democrats, has been unable to deliver on Cuba's biggest request: the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Opponents argue that repealing those sanctions would reward a government still engaging in human rights abuses and stifling of democratic aspirations.

Obama and supporters of the detente argue the decades-old embargo has failed to bring about desired change on the island 90 miles south of Florida. Still, while Obama has long expressed an interest in visiting Cuba, White House officials had said the visit wouldn't occur unless and until the conditions were right.

"If I go on a visit, then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody" - including political dissidents, Obama told Yahoo News in December. "I've made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba."

Officials didn't immediately specify what had changed in the last few weeks to clear the way for the trip, first reported by ABC News. But on Tuesday, the two nations signed a deal restoring commercial air traffic as early as later this year, eliminating a key barrier to unfettered travel that isolated Cuban-Americans from their families for generations.

Hundreds of thousands more Americans are expected to visit Cuba per year under the deal, which cleared the way for the U.S. Department of Transportation to open bidding by American air carriers on as many as 110 flights a day. Currently, there are about one-fifth as many flights operating between the two countries - all charters.

Not since President Calvin Coolidge went to Havana in January 1928 has a sitting U.S. president been to Havana, according to the State Department historian's office. President Harry Truman visited the U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay on the southeast end of the island in 1948, and former President Jimmy Carter has paid multiple visits to the island since leaving office.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 'What has he been smoking?': Swedes scratch heads at Trump's suggestion of major incident

    World News CBC News
    Swedes have been scratching their heads and ridiculing U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks that suggested a major incident had happened in the Scandinavian country. During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden" as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. Source
  • Iran, North Korea officials: Let's strengthen relationship

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Officials from both countries say Iran and North Korea want to strengthen relations. A Sunday report by ICANA.ir, the news agency of Iran's Parliament, quotes parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying: "We have always been after stability of relations with North Korea. Source
  • Snowblower sales surge as Maritimers dig themselves out of back-to-back storms

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Maritimers continue to dig themselves out of back-to-back snow dumps that have hit the East Coast. Some residents are still searching for their lawn ornaments after a series of storms clobbered Atlantic Canada last week. Source
  • Kenney works to consolidate lead as Alberta PC leader race enters homestretch

    Canada News CBC News
    The Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race is in the homestretch and front-runner Jason Kenney says he's still running like he's 10 votes behind, but he's also looking past voting day. "I'm (now) on a month-long tour around the province to meet with as many elected PC delegates as I can," said Kenney in an interview. Source
  • Minneapolis woman shocked friend walked to Canada

    Canada News CBC News
    Saciido Shaie says something seemed to be weighing on her friend Mohamed Badal in the days before he vanished. Badal, a Somali man who spent months trekking four continents before landing in the United States, had been preparing to appeal a rejected asylum application when Donald Trump became president. Source
  • Flood fears renewed as another storm aims for California

    World News CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Officials are warning that residents returning to homes damaged by flooding should be prepared to evacuate again as yet another powerful Pacific storm takes aim at Northern California. Colusa County Assistant Sheriff Jim Saso said Sunday that floodwaters are receding in the farm community of Maxwell, where dozens of people sought higher ground during Friday's rain. Source
  • 'I am a Muslim too' rally held in New York City to show solidarity LIVE

    World News CBC News
    At least 22 more asylum seekers, baby, cross into Manitoba Sunday Source
  • How Yukoners reacted when most of their territory went without power

    Canada News CBC News
    Most of Yukon went without power for a few hours Saturday after a hydro unit in Whitehorse went offline. For nearly three hours, power was out in communities across the territory, with temperatures dropping to nearly -30 C in some of the affected areas. Source
  • Conservative leadership hopefuls draw crowd of 600 to Langley, B.C., debate

    Canada News CBC News
    Opposition to safe injection sites, ideas for a two-tiered health care system and Islamophobia, along with jobs and the economy, were alll topics touched on by 12 of 14 of the federal Conservative leadership candidates in the first of two back-to-back B.C. Source
  • You're fired! Trump administration official axed after criticizing The Donald [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — A senior Trump administration official was fired following criticism in a private speech of President Donald Trump’s policies and his inner circle of advisers. Craig Deare, whom Trump appointed a month ago to head the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere division, was on Friday escorted out of the Executive Office Building, where he worked in Washington. Source