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Monday, 21 March 2016

Obama Becomes The First President To Set Foot In Cuba For Nine Decades: He Makes History With Michelle, Sasha and Malia

Obama and his wife Michelle approach Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (left) as they arrive at Havana's international airport for a three-day trip. They are seen taking their first step onto the communist nation's soil
The Obamas' tour of Old Havana was nearly a washout on Sunday evening as a deluge of rain came down minutes after they landed in Cuba for an historic three-day visit to the communist country.
The first family pressed on, despite the stormy skies, strolling through the Plaza des Armas as they huddled under umbrellas and they made their way to the Museo de la Ciudad, the museum of Cuba's capital city, and on to Havana Cathedral. 
The President, First Lady, Malia and Sasha Obama were all on board Air Force One as it landed in Havana, Cuba, for the first time

Obama's daughters Malia and Sasha beamed as they sheltered under an umbrella at Havana's airport after arriving in Cuba on Sunday

Rain on their parade: The Obamas looked less than impressed by the rain as it came down hard on them while they toured Old Havana after landing in Cuba on Sunday evening
President Obama's family - particularly his daughter Sasha - looked less than pleased as they perched underneath their blue and black umbrellas. 
As the Obama's taxied towards their motorcade, the president wrote on Twitter: '¿Que bolá Cuba? (What's up Cuba?). Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.' 
Cuban dictator Raul Castro did not greet the Obamas on the tarmac, leaving the country's foreign minister to conduct the greetings and handshakes instead. Castro has a meeting with the U.S. president tomorrow morning, but Obama will not come face-to-face with former leader, Fidel Castro.
As he arrived in the country, Obama admitted that Cuba had work to do to correct its poor human rights record, but said: 'Change is going to happen.'

Air Force One broke through the gray crowds as it came into land in Havana, soaring over streets filled with cars dating back decades
Air Force One broke through the gray crowds as it came into land in Havana, soaring over streets filled with cars dating back decades
President Barack Obama waved to hundreds of Cubans gathered in Old Havana as he was taken on a tour amid heavy rain

Two Cubans watched the arrival of the president and the first lady from their home, where a picture of revolutionary leader Che Guevara (top right) hung from the wall
Two Cubans watched the arrival of the president and the first lady from their home, where a picture of revolutionary leader Che Guevara (top right) hung from the wall

Cuban and American flags were flown from the president's car as it left the airport in the direction of Havana's Old Town, where he will be given a tour this evening 

Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump accused Castro of disrespecting the United States by not meeting Obama at the airport

Taking shelter: The Obama family did their best to stay dry as they were led around downtown by the city's historian in the first hours of their visit
Obama told ABC News: 'The time is right. Obviously our intention has always been to get a ball rolling, knowing that change wasn't going to happen overnight. We felt that coming now would maximize our ability to prompt more change. And it gives us, I think, the opportunity before I leave office to continue to stay on track in moving things forward.
'Change is going to happen [in Cuba] and I think that Raul Castro understands that.'
He added: 'We still have some work to do. I think it is very important for the United States not to view ourselves as the agents of change here, but rather to encourage and facilitate Cubans themselves to bring about changes. We want to make sure that whatever changes come about are empowering Cubans.' 
Family outing: The first family pressed on, despite the stormy skies, strolling through the Plaza des Armas as they huddled under their umbrellas as they made their way to the Museo de la Ciudad, the museum of the Cuba's capital city
Family outing: The first family pressed on, despite the stormy skies, strolling through the Plaza des Armas as they huddled under their umbrellas as they made their way to the Museo de la Ciudad, the museum of the Cuba's capital city

President Obama, his wife Michelle, children Sasha and Malia and the first lady's mother, Marian Robinson, touched down in Havana at 4:20pm ET on Sunday, with the first drops of rain falling as the Obamas walked down the Air Force One steps. 
Obama is the first sitting president in nearly 90 years to visit the island, in a trip the White House says will 'deepen' America's relationship with the authoritarian government following more than half a century of tension.  
Obama and his entourage were whisked off the runway to Melia Habana hotel to meet with U.S. embassy staff before their tour of Old Havana, a family excursion that was ill-fated, given the torrential downpour, but left on the schedule nonetheless as the U.S. president made a symbolic display of solidarity with the Cuban people. 
Cuban and American flags flew from the president's car as it left the airport in the direction of central Havana. 

The tour must go on! The president appeared to be explaining something to his daughter Malia as they were guided around Old Havana on a rainy evening

U.S. President Barack Obama stands near a portrait of Abraham Lincoln rolled out just for his visit as he is guided on a tour of the Museum of the City of Havana
U.S. President Barack Obama stands near a portrait of Abraham Lincoln rolled out just for his visit as he is guided on a tour of the Museum of the City of Havana


HISTORY OF U.S. CUBA RELATIONS

ABOVE: President Calvin Coolidge
ABOVE: President Calvin Coolidge
The last and only U.S. president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928. 
Obama becomes the first sitting president to set foot there in 88 years on Sunday.
The U.S. and Cuba were not on speaking terms for more than 50 years following the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara that overthrew Western-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
They installed a communist government and nationalized private businesses, including ones owned and operated by U.S. citizens. 
President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded with an embargo and cut off ties with the country a year later.
On April 17, 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized a failed attempt to overthrow Castro, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The next year his administration expanded the embargo against Cuba to cover all areas of the economy.
Eight months later Cuba allowed the Soviets to build a missile base on the island as part of a secret accord, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis and near nuclear war.
The 13-day stand-off involved U.S. naval ships surrounding the country until the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. came to an arrangement. The Soviets backed out of Cuba, America abandoned missile bases in Turkey and Italy.
Further sticking it to the Castro regime, President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 approved the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allowed citizens of the authoritarian country to apply for citizenship in the U.S. if they could escape. The legislation was amended years later to say that they must reach dry land in the U.S. to stay.
In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed legislation specifying that the embargo on the country could only be lifted when Fidel and his brother Raul were removed from power, and free and fair elections were held. 
Free speech must also be honored and dissidents must be released for the embargo to be removed. 
In 2006 Fidel temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul due to illness. His retirement became permanent in 2008.
Three years later, during his first term in office, President Obama began lifting restrictions on travel and remittances to the country. 
The two countries resumed diplomatic relations at Obama's urging on Dec. 14, 2015.
Prior to that U.S. and Cuban officials met in secret at the Vatican just outside Rome, Italy, to discuss the terms of reengagement.
Critics of the move say the U.S. got almost nothing in return for the deal. Arrests of Castro's political opponents have risen and Cuba has not made the kids of economic reforms the U.S. is seeking.
In return for Cuba's cooperation, 53 political prisoners, including jailed USAID worker Alan Gross, who had been convicted of espionage charges, were released. 
The United States likewise returned three captured Cuban intelligence operatives in the prisoner swap who were part of the Cuban Five, a group that was arrested for spying on the U.S. in 2001.
Cuba was later removed from the State Department's terrorist watch list in May of 2015.
The Obama administration believes the decades-old trade and travel ban on Cuba is fueling oppression in the island nation and wants Congress to throw it out. 
Tourism to Cuba is banned but the executive branch has unilaterally relaxed many travel rules and Americans can now go there for educational purposes on their own using the honor code as of last week.
Soon commercial flights to Cuba from the United States will also be available, as well.
Congress says it will not lift the full embargo on Cuba until the conditions set during the Clinton administration are met
Tuesday the president will attend a round table with Cuban-American business leaders, U.S. government officials and Cuban entrepreneurs.that the White House says will be focus on 'opportunity for the Cuban people.'
'This is a sector of the Cuban economy and society that holds enormous promise in improving the livelihoods of the Cuban people,' Rhodes told reporters Wednesday. 

WHO IS RAUL CASTRO? 

Raul Castro was a commander during his brother's revolution of Cuba and overthrow of Western backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
As a result of the 1953 26th of July Movement, he spent 22 months in prison in Mexico.
He escaped from Mexico along with 81 other exiled revolutionaries and made it back to Cuba in 1956.
His kidnapping of 34 Americans and two Canadians in June of 1958 almost led to military intervention in the revolution by the United States. 
The hostages were eventually released. On January 1, 1959, the Castros and Che Guevara successfully forced Batista out of Cuba and into exile.
Having wrangled control of the country, Fidel made his right-hand man and brother the head of the nation's army - a position Raul held until his brother formally passed on power to him in 2008.
Raul Castro modernized and liberalized the economy in Cuba, allowing the purchase of microwaves, cell phones computers, among other technologies. 
He is pursuing an economic model based off of China, which permits for some foreign investment and private enterprise.
Castro says he will step down as president at the end of his current term in 2018. His likely successor is first vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel.
'And more broadly, the commercial opening between our countries similarly has the potential to be a truly mutual interest in terms of providing opportunities - not just for U.S. businesses, but opportunities that again help empower and improve the lives of Cubans.'
Ahead of Obama's visit the United States Treasury Department eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, ending a requirement that Americans visiting for educational purposes go in groups. 
Tourist travel will still be illegal - only Congress can lift that ban - but the government will now use the 'honor code' to regulate approved travel, making it much easier for Americans to travel to the country for any purpose.
The new rules will also allow Cubans to open accounts at U.S. banks and financial institutions to process American money coming out of Cuba. 
It will further rescind a 10 percent charge on converting U.S. dollars to Cuban convertible pesos and allow mail, cargo and transportation companies to have direct presences in the communist country. 
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce lambasted the Obama administration last week for undercutting the congressionally-mandated trade embargo with its new rules. 
'Under existing law, the president, after consultation with Congress, is only authorized to suspend the economic embargo of Cuba if there is a transitional government in place that allows for all political activity, frees political prisoners, makes a commitment to free and fair elections, and does not include Raul Castro,' Royce said.
He added, 'Obviously these conditions have not been met. Instead of ignoring the law to hand more one-sided concessions to an oppressive regime, President Obama should be working with Congress to stand with the Cuban people who long for freedom.'
The Republican lawmaker said the administration's actions 'will further prop up a communist regime in Cuba that has a long record of brutal human rights abuses.'
And 'while the Castros and their agents are given access to the U.S. financial system, the suffering Cuban people will still get paid in funny money – if at all,' he said. 'Workers at foreign-owned resorts receive only a fraction of their salary, sometimes as little as five percent. The government pockets the rest.' 
The White House acknowledged in its preview of the trip that it would not 'overtly or implicitly' suggest regime change. It is not seeking to 'essentially overturn the government in Cuba' or 'dictate the political direction of Cuba.'
Obama 'will make very clear that that's up to the Cuban people. Our policy is focused on helping the Cuban people achieve a better future.'
Republican Congressman Tom Emmer, a sponsor of House legislation to lift the embargo, said in a statement announcing his participation in the president's Cuba trip that 'while there is certainly further work that needs to be done to address human rights issues it is not a matter of if the embargo is lifted, but a matter of when and this bipartisan trip is certainly a step in the right direction.'
'Expanding our markets, strengthening our national security, and improving relationships with our next door neighbor should be a nonpartisan issue,' the Minnesota congressman said.
Obama's spokesman argued on Friday that by removing impediment to the relationship with Cuba and other countries in the Western Hemisphere that do trade with the country, 'we've actually shined a bright light on the human rights situation in Cuba that does, in some ways, actually put more pressure on them to implement the kinds of long-overdue political and economic reforms there.'
Cuban nationals may now be hired at U.S. businesses, as well. 
This rule change could have an immediate effect on hiring within Major League Baseball teams, though it is still up to the Cuban government to approve a direct hire process that would allow natives of the country to join U.S. team without defecting.
In February the U.S. and Cuba reached an agreement to allow commercial travel between the U.S. and the island nation. Airlines were invited to submit bids and final decisions will be made before the end of this year. 




Via - DailyMail

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