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President Obama announces trip to Cuba on Twitter

By Jelani James,

President Barack Obama confirmed on Twitter Thursday that he would visit Cuba in March as part of a larger tour of Latin America, an act that would make him the second sitting U.S. president in history to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge addressed the Pan-American Conference of Western Hemisphere leaders in Havana in 1928.

The news comes after Washington and Havana restored diplomatic ties last July and the U.S. relaxed travel and trade restrictions after a 54-year freeze. The road to reach this point has been a long one, beginning in December 2014 when both Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they would resume relations for the first time since the conclusion of the Cold War, according to NBC News.

The two later met in Panama last April in the first official meeting between leaders of the two nations since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations between the two countries after Fidel Castro seized control in 1961.

Obama expressed interest in visiting Cuba at least once before he left office but said he would only do so if there was evidence of citizens being given more freedom.

“I am very much interested in going to Cuba, but I think the conditions have to be right,” he said in a December interview with Yahoo News’ Oliver Knox. “What I’ve said to the Cuban government is ‘if, in fact, I, with confidence, can say that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress.’ If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there.”

Based on recent developments, it is clear that Obama believes its time to visit the once Cold War-era foe and “chart a new course for U.S.-Cuban relations.”

“This historic visit – the first by a sitting US president in nearly 90 years – is another demonstration of the president’s commitment to chart a new course for US-Cuban relations and connect US and Cuban citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information,” the White House said, BBC News reported.

However, not everyone agrees that Obama should make the trip, and Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sons of Cuban migrants, were vocal in their opposition to the upcoming visit at CNN’s GOP town hall Wednesday evening.

Rubio referred to the Cuban government as “an anti-American communist dictatorship” and said he wouldn’t he even entertain going there unless it was a “free Cuba.”

Cruz mirrored his rival’s sentiments, saying, “I think it’s a real mistake. I think the President ought to be pushing for a free Cuba. My family has seen firsthand the evil and the oppression in Cuba. We need a president who stands up to our enemies,” according to CNN.

The visit is expected to occur on March 21-22, and officials say that while there, Obama could witness the signing of a peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group.

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