Obama to make historic visit to Cuba | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 18.02.2016
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Obama to make historic visit to Cuba

Following a deepening of ties between the two countries, US President Barack Obama is due to visit Cuba in March. He will be the first sitting US president to make a trip to Havana in nearly 90 years.

A senior Obama administration official said late on Wednesday that the White House would "officially announce the president's travel to Latin America, including Cuba" on Thursday.

The announcement comes after months of meetings between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro as diplomats hammered out agreements to reopen embassies in July 2015, as well as deals on travel, mail service and other issues.

Flights deal

The United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 during the Cold War and imposed a wide-ranging embargo on the island. Obama and Castro first announced plans to resume diplomatic ties and a prisoner swap following secret Vatican-brokered talks in December 2014.

Trade between the two nations remains limited due to the more than 50-year-old congressionally mandated trade embargo on Cuba, which includes a ban on American tourism to the Communist-led island. On Tuesday, however, Washington and Havana signed a deal on commercial air traffic that will allow for more than 100 daily flights between the two countries.

Calvin Coolidge, who had traveled to Havana in 1928, was the last sitting US president to visit the Cuban capital. During his time in office, Harry Truman visited the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay in 1948.

'Oppressive' Cuba

According to US broadcaster ABC, Obama's trip is expected to take place March 21-22, before the US president travels on to Argentina.

There has, however, been some opposition to Obama's trip. Critics have argued that more than a year after the re-establishment of ties with Cuba, the Cuban government remains as oppressive as ever.

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, told CNN he would not travel to Cuba "if it's not a free Cuba."

"I want the relationship between the US and Cuba to change, but it has to be reciprocal," Rubio said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the United States from Cuba in the 1950s, also said Obama should not visit while members of the Castro family remained in power.

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ksb/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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