President Barack Obama says his upcoming visit to Cuba will advance U.S. efforts to restore ties with the communist nation and improve the lives of Cubans.
Obama will be making the first trip to Cuba by a sitting president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. He says on Twitter there’s already been significant progress.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the U.S. still has “serious differences” with Cuban President Raul Castro’s government. He says Obama will raise issues of human rights and political freedoms in discussions with Castro.
Rhodes says the U.S. doesn’t want to “impose change” but believes Cuba will benefit from free expression of universal rights.
Obama’s brief stop is planned for March 21-22. The White House says Obama will also visit Argentina.
Embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., were reopened last summer.
On Tuesday the two nations signed an agreement to restore scheduled commercial air service for the first time in decades, as early as later this year. The U.S. Department of Transportation will open bidding by American air carriers for as many as 110 flights per day.
Word that Obama will visit Cuba brought immediate criticism from Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, both the sons of Cuban immigrants to the U.S.
Cruz said Obama should not visit Cuba while the Castro family remains in power. Rubio condemned the planned visit to an “anti-American communist dictatorship.”
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