Date
25 May 2017
Normalizing relations with Cuba is seen as one of the major foreign policy achievements of US President Barack Obama. Photo: AFP
Normalizing relations with Cuba is seen as one of the major foreign policy achievements of US President Barack Obama. Photo: AFP

Obama to make historic visit to Cuba next month

US President Barack Obama will visit Cuba next month, administration officials said.

The historic trip, which is expected to be announced by the White House on Thursday, will mark a turning point in his country’s relations with a long-time Cold War foe, Reuters reported.

It will be a part of a broader trip to Latin America.

The visit to Havana by Obama would cap what administration officials see as one of his legacy foreign policy achievements: normalizing relations with Cuba and taking steps toward expanded commercial relations after a 54-year freeze.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shocked the world in December 2014 by announcing the former adversaries would move to normalize relations.

The Republican majority in Congress has defied Obama’s call to rescind the five-decade-old embargo, so he has used his executive authority to relax trade and travel restrictions.

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sons of Cuban immigrants, have been sharply critical of his opening to Cuba in the absence of political change there.

A visit by Obama to Havana in late March would correspond with the finalization of a peace deal for Colombia that was encouraged and sponsored by Castro.

The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group are expected to finalize a peace deal by March 23 in Havana that would end a 50-year civil war in the South American nation.

Washington and Havana restored diplomatic ties in July but commerce remains limited by the US trade embargo, which includes a ban on American tourism to the island.

On Tuesday, American and Cuban officials signed an arrangement to restore scheduled air services between the two countries after half a century.

The last and only sitting US president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

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CG

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