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

  • Visits to Canada's national parks and historic sites jump after free admission

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - In Canada's it's not just about building it so they will come, it appears making it free also plays a role. More than 14 million people streamed through the gates of national parks and historic sites between January 1 and July 31, up 12 per cent over the year before. Source
  • Head knocked off Confederate soldier statue in Ohio cemetery

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Police say a Confederate soldier statue at a cemetery in Ohio has been damaged by vandals who took its head. Columbus police say vandals appear to have climbed on an arched memorial at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery and toppled the statue atop the monument to the ground. Source
  • Secret Service checks, clears unattended package at White House

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service and Washington police are investigating a package left near a White House fence. The Secret Service stated on Twitter Tuesday that, with local law enforcement, they were "responding to an unattended package near the North Fence of the ?åòWhiteHouse Complex. Source
  • Fore! Cul-de-sac in Edmonton area being hit with flying golf balls: RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    FORT SASKATCHEWAN, Alta. -- Alberta RCMP say a street in an Edmonton-area community is being used as a driving range. Officers say golf balls have been repeatedly hit or flung into a cul-de-sac in the town of Fort Saskatchewan since the beginning of May. Source
  • Residents in southeastern B.C. to return home as wildfire conditions ease

    Canada News CTV News
    KAMLOOPS, B.C. -- Conditions have eased around a wildfire sparked nearly two weeks ago in southeastern British Columbia, prompting the Regional District of Central Kootenay to rescind evacuation orders and alerts. Officials say residents would be allowed to return early Tuesday evening to nearly 40 properties that were evacuated Aug. Source
  • Barcelona suspect Oukabir thought vans were for house move

    World News Toronto Sun
    MADRID — A suspect told a Spanish court Tuesday that he had rented the vans used in in last week’s attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils but thought they were going to be used for a house move, a person who attended the hearing said. Source
  • Officials say Trump's Afghan plan involves 3,900 more troops

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to end the stalemate in America's longest war and eliminate Afghanistan's rising extremist threat involves sending up to 3,900 additional U.S. forces, senior officials said Tuesday. The first deployments could take place within days. Source
  • Bill Cosby’s retrial gets delayed

    World News Toronto Sun
    NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s new legal team said Tuesday it wants to delay the start of his sexual assault retrial, currently set for November, as the 80-year-old comedian’s lawyers get up to speed on the case. Source
  • Winnipeg teens charged after man’s online date ends in car jacking

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    WINNIPEG — Four Winnipeg teenagers have been charged in what police say was an online dating scam that ended with a man’s vehicle being stolen. Police say the teens created a fake profile on a popular dating website with the sole intent of luring a person to a location for a robbery. Source
  • Leadership hopeful accuses rival of downplaying domestic violence charge

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG - One of two men running for the leadership of the Manitoba New Democrats is accusing his rival of downplaying domestic violence charges from 2003. Steve Ashton says the public deserves to know more details about the charges that were laid -- and later dropped -- against Wab Kinew. Source