Politics

President Obama Is the First President to Visit Cuba in 88 Years

March 21st 2016

By:
Ingrid Holmquist

It has been 88 years since a U.S. president has set foot in Cuba. But President Barack Obama ended that on Sunday when he arrived on the island. The president broadcasted his arrival on Twitter using the common Cuban phrase “Que bolá?", which translates to “What’s up?”

The American delegation of roughly 800 to 1,200 people, according to The Guardian, arrived in Cuba with one major goal: to mend the fractured diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., a remnant of the Cold War.

In their negotiation, the White House says, along with chatting about the trade embargo, Obama will discuss the human rights abuses in Cuba and intends to meet with Cuban anti-government activists.

“This is a Berlin wall moment: a step toward liberation worthy of Nelson Mandela, at whose funeral Obama and president Raúl Castro famously first shook hands,” said Dan Roberts in his article in The Guardian.

Obama on Cuba

This historic bookend of Obama’s presidency is similar to a wall falling in a lot of ways. While only Congress can lift the trade embargo on Cuba, the meeting will likely ease the gradual disintegration of the embargo.

As far as the human rights abuses, Cuba is notorious for repressing those who don’t agree with governmental decisions — sometimes forcing dissenters into dramatic prison sentences. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Cuban government has also employed repressive punishments on critics of the government that include “beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”

When Obama announced the visit to Cuba he made sure to not leave out the discussion of such abuses. He said he intends to, “speak candidly about our serious differences with the Cuban government, including on democracy and human rights.”

street-in-cuba

After diplomacy and hopefully a progressive compromise, Obama also plans to have some fun while in Cuba.

To close out the visit and commemorate the historic meeting, the two countries will celebrate with their shared pastime, baseball, as the Tampa Bay Rays and Havana Estadio Latinoamericano play against each other on Tuesday.

After Obama leaves Havana, Air Force One will travel further south to meet with President Mauricio Macri in Argentina where he plans to praise the progressive shift in Argentina.