Cuba rolls out red carpet as Obama lands in Havana

Obama in Cuba

In a historic moment, US President Barack Obama landed in Cuban capital Havana to start a new chapter in US engagement with the communist government after decades of hostility. Mr Obama’s visit hailed by many Cubans and Americans after the two countries restored diplomatic ties in December 2014 after more than half-a-century of animosity. This is the first visit by a serving American President to Cuba after 88 years. Mr Obama was greeted with chants of ‘Welcome to Cuba’ and ‘USA!,USA!’. Mr Obama who also enjoys considerable popularity with people of Cuba, on his arrival tweeted: “Que bolá Cuba?” meaning “What’s up?”. To the embassy staff, he said “Como andan?” meaning “How are you doing?”

On the other hand, critics are arguing that US President Barack Obama is too focused on making a legacy-defining trip rather than demanding improvements.

During the visit Mr Obama will meet with Cuba’s President Raul Castro on March 21. He will also hold a private meeting with dissidents, and pay homage to the Catholic Church which helped in normalising the relation between the two countries. He is also scheduled to watch a baseball game. Mr Obama will take up the issue of democracy and human rights in Cuba during his visit. Mr Castro is expected to step down in 2018.

The primary focus of the visit is to emphasise the economic potential of US-Cuba ties. A contingent of US business leaders is also accompanying Mr Obama. Popular hotel chain Starwood announced that it has reached a multimillion-dollar deal to renovate three hotels in Cuba including a property owned by the Cuban military.

Prior to his visit Mr Obama had eased travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. The US and Cuba recently signed a pact to restore flight connectivity between the two countries. While tangible progress has been made in the relations between the two countries since the restoration of diplomatic ties, the decision to lift economic embargo on Cuba is yet to be approved by the US Congress.

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