President Barack Obama will meet dissidents and President Raul Castro in Cuba next month, the White House said on Thursday, announcing a historic trip that will be another major step toward ending decades of animosity between former Cold War foes.
In the first visit by a U.S. president to the Caribbean nation since 1928, Obama will meet entrepreneurs and people from different walks of life during the trip on March 21 and 22, but he is unlikely to see Fidel Castro, the former president and revolutionary leader, U.S. officials said.
The White House hopes Obama’s trip will help accelerate change on the Communist-run island and cement progress made under his watch, but Republicans at home complained that it would give legitimacy to Cuba’s oppressive government.
“Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people,” Obama wrote on Twitter.
After decades of hostility following Cuba’s 1959 revolution, the two countries agreed in 2014 to move to reopen ties, but the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains and Washington frequently criticizes Havana’s human rights record.