Update to this article:
- Obama’s official visit has been confirmed for March 21 – 22nd.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated Tuesday (February 23) he plans to travel to Cuba “in the next week or two” for talks on human rights. Kerry was previously in Cuba in August 2015 for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana.
First reported by ABC News, U.S. President Barack Obama is to make a historic visit to Cuba in the upcoming weeks. Obama will be the first sitting President since Calvin Coolidge to visit the Island since 1928. Former President Jimmy Carter also visited Cuba twice but this was after he had served his term in office. Obama’s official trip to Cuba will contribute to his political legacy to reestablish warmer relations with the Island.
President Obama is hoping to cement the achievements of his Administration to prevent a reversal of steps forward by any incoming government with a regressive political agenda.
Obama faces opposition from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Both candidates have criticized his efforts over the last 14 months to restore diplomatic ties.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro first met face to face at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. This was the highest level meeting between the US and Cuba since 1959.
The opening of Cuba and US embassies in Havana and Washington was another great moment in this chapter of rapprochement. In addition, the recent signing of the aviation agreement between the US and Cuba represents another step forward in Obama’s agenda to restore ties between the two nations.
Obama sees the necessity of ending over fifty years of US isolationist policy against Cuba. It is a policy which is increasingly viewed by the rest of the world as a failed business and political policy. At the United Nations referendum condemning the embargo, 191 nations voted for its removal. The only two countries voting to keep the blockade were the US and Israel. Obama believes the restoration of economic and diplomatic ties with Cuba will cement the rapprochement his administration started. To date, political infighting and opposition from the Republicans has prevented the removal of this increasing unpopular blockade.
The embargo is seen by Cuba and American business interests as a major stumbling block to normalizing trade relations between the two countries. Instead, Obama’s foreign policy has focused on making legislative changes to ease the trade situation between the US and Cuba.
American business groups and politicians have visited Cuba over the last year but only a few trade deals have been signed. Cuba in the meantime has continued to establish bilateral relations and trade deals with other countries. Those nations with established businesses in Cuba continue to profit and expand their business opportunities.
The embargo is seen as a failed business policy by global and American business interests. In over 50 years, it’s only achievement has been to impoverish Cuban people and make doing business in Cuba problematic for international businesses.
In 2014 in a Yahoo news interview Obama said, “conditions have to be right… If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there. I’m not interested in just validating the status quo.” He was referring to conditions of change in the lives, liberties and economic situation of Cubans citizens.
The White House administration will announce today the details of Obama’s visit to Cuba which also includes other nations of Latin America.