US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro during a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City.
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama will be visiting Cuba from March 21-22, according to a Medium post by deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
It is a historic visit, as Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit in the country in more than 80 years. The last and only sitting president to visit the Caribbean island was Calvin Coolidge in 1928, to address the Sixth Annual International Conference of American States in Havana, ABC News Notes.
According to the report, the visit comes after both Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro announced the restoration of diplomatic relations in December 2014, which coincided with a prisoner exchange and the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross. Continued conversations since the 2014 announcement led to the reopening of embasses in both countries last summer. On Tuesday, the US and Cuba agreed to restore commercial air traffic, ABC notes.
According to CNN, the news was met with some pushback by top Republicans. Fla. Sen. and 2016 Presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American, said that, if he were president he would not visit Cuba, unless it were a “free Cuba,” blasting the government as “an anti-American communist dictatorship.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, who is also in the 2016 race for president also slammed the move by the Obama administration.
“I think it’s a real mistake. I think the President ought to be pushing for a free Cuba,” Cruz, whose father emigrated from Cuba, said at the same CNN GOP town hall where Rubio made his comments. “My family has seen firsthand the evil and the oppression in Cuba. We need a president who stands up to our enemies.”