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President Obama, First Family in Cuba

By Frederick H. Lowe


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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Cuba Sunday for a historic visit.

( – Like President Richard Nixon did in 1972 when he flew to Beijing, China, to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China, to normalize relations between the two countries, President Barack Obama flew to Havana, Cuba, on Sunday to begin normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will visit Havana, Cuba, on Monday, March 21, and Tuesday March 22, where President Obama is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, and possibly Fidel Castro, the country’s former president and leader of 26th of July Movement that overthrew the American-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. Fidel is Raul’s older brother. President Obama arrived in Havana Sunday, March 20, in the afternoon.

Bay of Pigs disaster set ushers in Cold War

Batista was forced to flee Cuba for the U.S. during the administration of President Dwight E. Eisenhower. Under Eisenhower, Allen W. Dulles, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, hatched the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was carried out by CIA-trained Cuban exiles with disastrous results on April 17, 1961, under President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy later called the idea stupid and fired Dulles who was believed to be suffering from early onset dementia. After the Bay of Pigs, relations between the two countries went into a deep freeze with some exceptions. Members of Congress and farmers from the Midwest visited Cuba without U.S. approval, according to Tad Szulc, author of “Fidel: A Critical Portrait.” American tourists and humanitarian groups visited Cuba, traveling via Jamaica, Mexico and other countries without having their passports stamped.

Meyer Lansky, boss of the American Mafia, attempted to meet with Fidel Castro after the Cuban Revolution to keep mob-owned Cuban casinos open but nothing came of it, according to the book “Havana Nocturne : How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution.”
President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba during the summit of the Americas in Panama City, PanamaPresident Barack Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba during the summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama.

President Raul Castro met face-to-face during a summit in 2015 in Panama. Cuba is 90 miles off of Florida’s coast, but the successive U.S. governments pursued a policy of placing an economic embargo on Cuba, although other countries like U.S. ally, Canada, did not.

A major thaw began with small steps.

President Obama’s visit constitutes a major thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba. According to Ben Rhodes, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor, the president is traveling to Cuba for more reforms.

“We want to open up more opportunities for U.S. businesses and travelers to engage with Cuba, and we want the Cuban government to open up more opportunities for its people to benefit from that engagement.”

President Obama and President Raul Castro met in 2015 in Panama City, Panama.

Congressional Black Caucus met with Fidel and Raul Castro

Six years before that meeting, members of the Congressional Black Caucus flew to Cuba in 2009, where they met with Fidel Castro and Raul Castro on different days.

Congressional Black Caucus members who visited Cuba were: U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.); U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (D., N.C.), U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D., Calif.); U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, (D., Ill.); U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.) and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge. The members of the CBC called for new direction in U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba.

The release of Alan Gross

Since the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor, in December 2014, the two countries have held a series of diplomatic talks that led to the restoration of commercial air traffic.

Last August, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reopened the American Embassy in Havana 54 years after it had been closed. The embassy is across from the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana.

First sitting president to visit Cuba in 88 years

President Obama is the first sitting president since Calvin Coolidge to visit Cuba. In 1928, President Coolidge visited Cuba aboard a U.S. battleship. Former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba in 2002, 20 years after he left office and at the invitation of Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro has an interesting relationship with the U.S. He honeymooned here, and he stayed in a Harlem hotel. After visiting Cuba, President Obama and the First Lady will fly to Argentina for a two-day visit on March 23rd and 24th.

In Buenos Aires, President Obama and the First Family will meet with Mauricio Marci, Argentina’s new president to discuss, President Macri’s reform agenda.

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