A little after 9 a.m. on Thursday (Feb. 18) President Obama made official what had been reported widely the previous day. Using Twitter, the president announced: “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.” Seconds later a second twit said: “Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.”
After the Dec. 17, 2014, announcement by Presidents Obama and Castro that diplomatic relations would be re-established between the U.S. and Cuba, Obama had repeatedly insisted that he wanted to visit Cuba while still in the White House. On Wednesday night his warnings became reality in the media sphere as unnamed sources predicted that Obama would make his announcement on Thursday.
President Obama’s visit to Cuba is expected at the end of March. It will be the first to the island by a sitting president in almost 90 years.
According to USA Today, “The first and only sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928, according to the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. Coolidge rode into Havana aboard the battleship U.S.S. Texas on a mission to show good faith between the United States and Latin America during an era of frequent American interventions throughout the region. Jimmy Carter also visited the island on two trips in 2002 and 2011 to meet with the Castro brothers, but that was more than two decades after he left the Oval Office.”
ABC News and Reuters broke the news on Wednesday night. Rumors of the Obama visit began circulating as early as last week.
The Washington Post reported that “the trip is tentatively scheduled to precede a presidential visit to Argentina. The White House had initially hoped that the Cuba stop would coincide with the signing on the island of a peace deal ending Colombia’s long guerrilla war, but the March 23 deadline for the agreement now is expected to be extended for at least several days, possibly weeks.”
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY ON THE PRESIDENT’S TRAVEL TO CUBA AND ARGENTINA
President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Cuba on March 21st and 22nd and Argentina on March 23rd and 24th. In Cuba, the President will work to build on the progress we have made toward normalization of relations with Cuba – advancing commercial and people-to-people ties that can improve the well-being of the Cuban people, and expressing our support for human rights. In addition to holding a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama will engage with members of civil society, entrepreneurs and Cubans from different walks of life. This historic visit – the first by a sitting U.S. President in nearly 90 years – is another demonstration of the President’s commitment to chart a new course for U.S.-Cuban relations and connect U.S. and Cuban citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information.
In Buenos Aires, the President and First Family will meet with the new Argentine President, Mauricio Macri, to discuss President Macri’s reform agenda and recognize his contributions to the defense of human rights in the region. The President will deepen efforts to increase cooperation between our governments in a range of areas, including trade and investment, renewable energy and climate change, and citizen security. It has been nearly two decades since the last bilaterally focused visit by a U.S. President to Argentina, Latin America’s third largest country.