After landing on Sunday afternoon, they’ll tour Old Havana and meet with Cardinal Ortega, a Catholic leader who worked with Pope Francis on the effort to bring the two countries to the negotiating table
President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba comes with all the trappings of an official visit. There’s the meeting with a country’s leader (President Raúl Castro), a friendly chat with a high-ranking religious official (Cardinal Jaime Ortega), a photo op at a historic location (historic Havana) and even a state dinner.
But for the White House, the really important work of the trip, which begins Sunday, will take place in between, in those moments when Obama has a chance to interact with everyday Cubans.
“We see this speech as a unique moment obviously in the history between our countries,” Senior Advisor Ben Rhodes said ahead of the trip. “This is the first visit of a U.S. President in nearly 90 years, certainly the first speech given by a President on Cuban soil in nearly 90 years and an opportunity for the President to engage the Cuban people with his vision for the future.”
The Cuba trip is also aimed at an audience back home. The rapprochement has only just begun, but many Republicans hope to delay or even reverse it, and there is little support in Congress for ending the Cuban embargo, which dates back to the 1960s.