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Obama plans historic trip to Cuba to further ties

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM
President Barack Obama joined by former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon (seated, centre), and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (seated, right), talks to media in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington.


President Barack Obama will pay a historic visit to Cuba in the coming weeks, senior Obama administration officials have disclosed. He will become the first president to set foot on the island in nearly seven decades.

The brief visit in mid-March will mark a watershed moment for relations between the US and Cuba, a communist nation estranged from the US for half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved to relaunch diplomatic ties more than a year ago. Since then, the nations have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.

Obama's stop in Cuba will form part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip has not been officially announced.

Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba, including Republican presidential candidates.