Barack Obama and family make a historic visit to Cuba

Barack Obama and family make a historic visit to Cuba

- US President Barack Obama is in Cuba to hold talks with the Cuban president.

- This is the first time a US president has visited Cuba.

- Mr. Obama will discuss trade and will not meet Fidel Castro.

Barack Obama and family make a historic visit to Cuba

US President, Barack Obama

US President, Barack Obama, has made a historic visit to Cuba to have talks with the country’s communist leader, Raul Castro.

Mr. Obama’s visit makes him the first US president to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution, which marked decades of hostility. On his arrival, Mr.Obama posted on his twitter handle that he is "Looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.

Mr Obama is in Cuba to meet President Raul Castro to discuss trade and political reform. Mr Obama and Raul Castro will sit together at a state dinner and attend to joint news conferences while discussing trade.

The White House has made it clear President Obama will meet political dissidents, whether the Cuban authorities like it or not. That is expected to include members of the Ladies in White group.

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Hours before the arrival of Mr. Obama and his family to Cuba, protesters were arrested in the capital Havana.  The protesters were demonstrators from the Ladies in White group, formed by wives of political prisoners, from outside a church where they attempt to hold weekly protests.

Correspondents say the visit marks a huge turnaround in US-Cuban relations and represents the opening of a new chapter in the affairs of the two nations. Mr. Obama’s visit does not however mark a complete normalization in relations between the two countries.

The 54-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba is still in place and can only be lifted by a vote in Congress. Meanwhile, Cuba still complains about the occupation of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Nevertheless enormous strides have already been taken, our correspondent says.

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Mr Obama and Mr Castro agreed in December 2014 to end decades of frozen relations that began when Cuba's revolution overthrew a pro-US government in 1959. Since 2014 there have been commercial deals on telecoms and a scheduled airline service, increased co-operation on law enforcement and environmental protection.

The US president is not scheduled to meet the man who led the revolution - Fidel Castro - but Cubans were reminded of their historic leader on Sunday as newspapers published pictures of him meeting Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.

Analysts suggested the release of the pictures underlines conflicting sentiments within the Communist Party over hosting Mr Obama. US-Cuba relations were frozen since the early 1960s, when the US broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a trade embargo after Cuba's revolution led to communism. The embargo was estimated to cost the US economy $1.2bn a year.

US President Barack Obama announced moves to normalise diplomatic and economic ties in December 2014. It followed more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving Pope Francis.

The plans included reviewing the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, easing a travel ban for US citizens, easing financial restrictions, increasing telecommunications links as well as efforts to lift the trade embargo. The US reopened its embassy in Havana in August 2015, a month after Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington.

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