President Barack Obama arrived in the island nation of Cuba with his family on Sunday. Obama’s visit is the first to the nation in almost ninety years, the last being President Calvin Coolidge’s visit in 1928. The visit is also the first since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s when the Castros took power and implemented communist policies.
The visit comes as President Obama looks to make his Cuban policy a major proponent of his legacy. President Obama normalized relations with Cuba and the United States and Cuba have now re-established embassies in the other respective country.
President Obama will meet privately with President Raul Castro and deliver an address to the Cuban people. On Tuesday, he will attend a baseball game being played by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. President Castro did not greet President Obama and his family at the airport, the Foreign Minister of Cuba was the highest ranking official there to welcome the Obamas.
While on the tarmac, President Obama tweeted, “¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”
¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.
— President Obama (@POTUS) March 20, 2016
President Obama spent time on Sunday touring parts of Old Havana and visited the national cathedral. He also stopped by the American embassy where he greeted staff and touched on the differences since the last American President came to Cuba. “Back in 1928, President Coolidge came on a battleship, it took him three days to get here. It only took me three hours.”
Thirty-nine members of Congress are accompanying the President. It is not unusual for there to be a congressional delegation during a presidential trip. There are five Republicans as part of the delegation. Many Republicans, including former presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, have opposed President Obama’s new tone towards Cuba, saying it will reward and strengthen the Castro regime. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is also in Cuba for the trip, working to develop opportunities for American companies to come and participate in Cuba’s economy. As President Obama’s trip was beginning, the travel start-up Airbnb announced it was expanding its service to the country.
The Cuban regime arrested dozens of human rights protesters on the eve of President Obama’s visit. The protesters were demanding better treatment. President Obama has pledged to meet with dissidents, regardless of whether the Cuban government wants him to.