President Obama Visits Cuba

By Daniel Bonge

It has been 88 years since a U.S. President has visited Cuba. President Obama’s decision to travel to Cuba next month to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro is a surprise that is making history in his final year in office. The Cuban Missile crisis came to a close in 1962, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove Russian missiles from Cuba in exchange for a promise from the United States to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty during the Cold War. Since then, the United States has not been able to enter Cuban territory.

President Obama was hoping for the power of his office to help persuade Castro to do more to open his mostly state-run economy and to respect the human rights policies of the United States. The Cuban leader has been unwilling to take those steps since the two presidents announced in December 2014 that they would move toward normalized relations after a half-century of hostility. President Obama believes he can persuade Castro if he visits and talks to him. This trip would show concrete progression towards normalization between United States and Cuba. Obama will not be seeing Fidel Castro, the man behind the 1959 revolution that led to the rupture with the United States.

There are many people who support President Obama and his decision, and many people who oppose it. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican presidential candidate, released a letter to Mr. Obama urging him to reconsider the trip. “Having an American president go to Cuba simply for the sake of going there, without the United States getting anything in return, is both counterproductive and damaging to our national security interests,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “You will send the message to the oppressed Cuban people that you stand with their oppressors.”

President Obama will be the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge went in 1928. The president also plans to use the trip to highlight his efforts to foster closer ties with the rest of Latin America. After Cuba, President Obama will travel to Argentina to meet the new president, Mauricio Macri, who has said he wants to improve relations with the United States. This historic trip will likely begin an era of peace between two historically opposed countries.

 

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