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President Obama Says He Will Make a Historic Trip to Cuba This Spring

President Obama will become the first sitting president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, marking one more step toward the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba.
February 18, 2016, 3:55pm
Photo by Mariana Bazo/Reuters

For the first time in more than eight decades, an American president will travel on an official visit to Cuba, according to an announcement from President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Obama said he was planning to travel to Cuba on March 21 and 22 and meet with Cuban President Raul Castro in a trip "to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people." The historic trip to Havana comes in the final year of Obama's presidency. This will make him the first American head of state to head to the Havana since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

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Next month, I'll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.

— President Obama (@POTUS)February 18, 2016

In a post on Twitter, Obama said that while the United States still has differences with Cuba, it has already made significant progress in normalizing ties with the country, and the trip will cap one of his biggest foreign policy achievements.

14 months ago, I announced that we would begin normalizing relations with Cuba - and we've already made significant progress.

— President Obama (@POTUS)February 18, 2016

A senior administration official says the visit will be part of a broader trip to Latin America. During the trip, Obama will have the opportunity to meet with Castro, Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, wrote in separate blog post.

The US imposed a crippling embargo on Cuba starting in late 1960, almost two years after Fidel Castro led a revolution against US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Easing tensions with Cuba has been a major foreign policy priority for President Barack Obama. Toward the end of 2014, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they would take steps to normalize relations between the two countries.

Obama's travel announcement comes just days after the US and Cuba signed an agreement to restore scheduled air service between the two countries after half a century. The Republican-controlled Congress has refused to lift the decades old US trade embargo on Cuba. But Obama has used his executive authority to relax trade and travel restrictions.

 This summer, both countries opened embassies in Havana and Washington, a highly symbolic step, but also one that will help the two nations attempt to establish greater trade ties.

Related: US and Cuba Strike Historic Deal to Allow Regular Commercial Flights