By Marzia Rahman
According to the official White House website, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are going to Cuba on March 21 and 22 to meet with Cuban president, Raul Castro. President Obama is the first sitting American president to travel to Cuba in about ninety years, making this a truly historic visit.
According to the statement made by the Press Secretary on the White House website, the President aims to further enhance efforts of diplomatic normalization with Cuba, specifically in terms of commerce and interpersonal relations with the Cuban people.
The visit demonstrates President Obama’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,” the statement states.
The President believes the best way to improve the quality of life of the Cuban people while also promoting American interests is through engagement, according to a summary of the President’s “Weekly Address: A New Chapter With Cuba.”
The last time a sitting President visited Cuba was in January 1928 when President Calvin Coolidge attended the Pan American Conference in Havana, according to Krishnadev Calamur’s article “The Last Time a U.S. President Visited Cuba” published in The Atlantic.
Fidel Castro and his fellow Communist rebels took over Cuba country in 1959, which lead to the United States had severing diplomatic relations with the country in 1961, writes Calamur.
However, not everyone is happy with the President’s upcoming diplomatic visit. In fact, many of those opposed to the President’s visit are Cuban Americans, from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
For example, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to rethink visiting Cuba.
According to New York Times article “Obama Going to Cuba; First Visit by U.S. President in 88 Years” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Rubio asserted that simply visiting Cuba for the sake of traveling there will damage the interests of American national security and will indirectly demonstrate to the Cuban people that the United States supports “their oppressors”– the Cuban government.
The article also cited New Jersey Senator, Robert Menendez, a Democrat, who said that the President is rewarding Cuba with a visit despite the country’s failure to improve human rights, freedoms, and more democratic elections.
In addition to visiting Cuba, the President and First Lady will also travel to Argentina on March 23 and 24 to meet with Argentina’s new president to discuss the president’s plan for Argentina’s reform and recognize his support and contribution to human rights.