Obama defends Cuba visit

The president Saturday said his upcoming visit to Cuba will continue to propel the long-alienated countries toward a more normalized relationship that will improve daily life for average Cubans. 

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“I’m confident that my visit will advance the goals that guide us – promoting American interests and values and a better future for the Cuban people, a future of more freedom and more opportunity,” President Obama said in his weekly address.

He emphasized that he will continue to push Raul Castro on democracy and human rights, saying he will “speak candidly about our serious differences.”

But he said American businesses and visitors are helping build up private enterprise, and increasing Internet availability is making knowledge and resources more accessible to the Cuban people. 

Obama said “there’s overwhelming support for this new relationship,” but he has been criticized for reaching out to the communist government, including by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are both of Cuban descent.  

Obama and the first lady will visit Cuba March 21-22 and will also make a stop in Argentina. Obama said in his address that in addition to a meeting with Castro, he will speak with members of civil society and entrepreneurs.