With now less than 10 months left of this presidency, President Obama has traveled to the island where no sitting president has been since 1928–Cuba.
The Obamas touched down early Sunday morning in the colorful-yet-restricted island and was greeted by thousands of supporters with Cuban and American flags in tow. Anti-Castro activists and protesters came out in drones to watch Obama and family arrive, only to be arrested by police and carried away in buses.
In his second term, Obama has made substantial effort to restore diplomatic ties with the communist state after they were severed during the Kennedy administration (cc: bay of pigs). So far, the president has lifted flight restrictions to Cuba. Americans can now travel to Cuba for educational and cultural purposes, and recently, can now travel individually instead of in groups. As of today, the only way to travel to Cuba is by charter plane. That is set to change, as major American airlines are in the works of adding Havana as international destinations.
Key topics Obama is planning to discuss with the leader of Cuba, Raul Castro include human rights and economic opportunities with Cuba and America. The trade embargo remains in effect and will be in effect for awhile. The president hopes to inspire congress to shift opposition of Cuba and open up lines of commerce between the two countries.
Day one of touring Havana is complete; next up is day two, an official meeting with Raul Castro. This is the third encounter the two leaders will have in its rounds of bilateral meetings.
Obama on Bilateral Meetings with Raul Castro:
“Our intention has been to get the ball rolling, knowing that change wasn’t going to happen overnight,” Obama said. “Although we still have significant differences around human rights and individual liberties inside of Cuba, we felt that coming now would maximize our ability to prompt more change.”- President Barack Obama to CNN
Catch play-by-play coverage of he historic three-day trip here on CNN: Obama arrives in Cuba; hopes visit will usher in change