Date
16 December 2017
Barack Obama waves while standing in front of Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (R) after landing in Havana on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama waves while standing in front of Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (R) after landing in Havana on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Obama begins historic trip to Cuba

US President Barack Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday in a historic visit to the former Cold War foe and marking the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced in December 2014.

Landing at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport aboard Air Force One, Obama and his family were greeted by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

A formal welcoming ceremony will take place on Monday when Obama meets Cuban President Raul Castro at the presidential palace, Reuters reported.

Obama’s three-day trip, the first by a US president to Cuba in 88 years, signals the end of a Cold War-era estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

Obama, who abandoned a longtime US policy of trying to isolate Cuba, wants to make his shift irreversible.

But major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties, with Obama’s critics at home saying the visit is premature, the report noted.

Traveling with first lady Michelle Obama, her mother and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, Obama met first with staff of the newly reopened US Embassy at a Havana hotel.

The Obamas then took in the sights of Old Havana, drawing cheers from small crowds of Cubans and foreign tourists.

Obama was also hosted on a tour of Havana’s 18th century cathedral by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played a key role in secret talks that led to the rapprochement 15 months ago.

“It’s a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people,” Obama told US diplomats.

Obama will hold talks with Raul Castro – but not his brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader – and speak to entrepreneurs on Monday. 

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