Obama to visit Cuba in March

Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) President Barack Obama will become the first sitting US President to visit Cuba in 88 years, when he visits Havana in March, the White House announced on Thursday.

The visit, which is scheduled for March 21-22, is another big step by the administration in ongoing efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, CNN reported.

“Fourteen months ago, I announced that we would begin normalising relations with Cuba – and we’ve already made significant progress,” Obama said in a tweet.

“Our flag flies over our Embassy in Havana once again. More Americans are travelling to Cuba than at any time in the last 50 years,” he added.

“We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.

“Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people,” he said in a series of tweets.

According to White House, Obama will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, as well as entrepreneurs and different members of Cuban society.

He will be joined by the first lady on his trip to Cuba, after which they will visit Argentina for two days.

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

The trip, long expected, comes after Obama’s administration formally reopened ties with Havana in late 2014, following a half-century of enmity.

Cuban officials reacted positively to the announcement on Thursday.

“…Obama will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and the Cuban people with our traditional hospitality. It will be an opportunity for (the) president to appreciate the Cuban reality,” Josefina Vidal, the general director for the US affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry said at a news conference in Havana Thursday.

“His visit will represent a step forward in relations between Cuba and the US.”

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