Region:
America
Category:
Politics
Article type:
Approaches

Obama in Cuba on historic visit

President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in U.S. engagement with the island's Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes

The wheels of Air Force One touched down at Jose Marti International Airport for the first time ever at 4:19 p.m. Sunday, kicking off a history-making presidential visit and breaking decades of tense relations with communist Cuba.

It's the same single-runway airport the CIA once bombed in the 1960s, and whose broken-down Russian-built airplanes and colorful, antiquated terminals give testimony to the impact of 50 years of U.S. sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

But as he descended the stairway under an umbrella, President Obama was greeted warmly on the tarmac by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who presented First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters with flowers. A small crowd gathered on the reviewing stand, but their cheers were subdued by the 84-degree drizzle.

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Sunday that 974 reporters from 202 news outlets from 50 countries were in Havana to cover Obama’s trip.

President Obama's three-day visit will focus on deepening long-neglected commercial ties between the United States and Cuba, but also drawing a harder line on human rights abuses by the Castro government. Just hours before his arrival, Cuban authorities arrested more than 50 human rights activists at the weekly Ladies in White protest outside Havana.