Obama arrives in Cuba for historic trip

Obama arrives in Cuba for historic trip
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President Obama arrived in Cuba Sunday on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first sitting president to travel to the Communist island nation in almost 90 years.

Air Force One landed at around 4:15 p.m. amid driving rain. Obama and his family were greeted on the tarmac by Cuba leaders before heading into Havana. 

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During Obama’s three-day trip, he’s expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro and representatives of the private sector before delivering a historic speech in Havana in an effort to continue the thaw in relations between the U.S. and the Communist country.

After landing, Obama tweeted. He later met with embassy staff in the Melia Habana hotel, due to the weather. The first family then took a walking tour of Old Havana.  

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“I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people,” Obama wrote on his Twitter account last month. “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.”

Obama has already taken steps to rebuild relations with Cuba, which has been isolated from the U.S. for five decades over Cold War-era divisions.

Last summer, the U.S. and Cuba reopened embassies, and earlier this year the Obama administration eased travel and trade restrictions between the two countries.

Cubans have been preparing for the Obama visit, with plainclothes officers reportedly blanketing the capital of Havana and public works crews laying down asphalt in pothole-laden streets.

Cuban police arrested several dozen protesters Sunday in Havana, just hours before Obama landed, AFP reported.

Some of protesters were from the Ladies in White, a group formed by wives of former political prisoners. Police arrested them outside a church where they attempt to hold protests almost every Sunday.

Though many Cubans are reportedly excited for the first visit from a U.S. president in nearly a century, there’s one Cuban who will be absent from Obama’s diplomatic meetings: Fidel Castro, the country’s 89-year-old retired president.

“Neither we nor the Cubans have pursued such a meeting,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters last week, according to ABC News. “He’ll be meeting with Raúl Castro as the President of Cuba,” Rhodes continued. “That’s the appropriate government-to-government engagement, and so that’s what he’ll be pursuing.”

--This report was updated at 6:30 p.m.