It was a historic visit, one that few had imagined just months earlier.
On March 20, 2016, Barack Obama landed at José Martí airport in Havana, Cuba. And so he became the first US president to set foot on the Communist-ruled island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 – 88 years ago.
Cuban President Raúl Castro did not greet Obama right away. They met the next morning. Obama wanted that to happen before the end of his second mandate. In 2014, he had announced a deal to restore full diplomatic ties between the former Cold War enemies, ending five decades of estrangement.
Barack Obama and Raúl Castro begin historic meeting in Havana #CubaVisit https://t.co/Skyrhn1HNx pic.twitter.com/bLCrCGUVL6— El País in English (@elpaisinenglish) March 21, 2016
During his visit, the US president did push Cuba on the issue of human rights: “As we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future. We will speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly and religion,” he said.
Castro meanwhile called for the United States to drop its trade embargo: “The blockade is the biggest obstacle to our economic development and to the well-being of the Cuban people,” he said. Obama replied: “The embargo is going to end. When? I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe it will end and the path that we are on will continue beyond my administration.”
Obama used his executive powers to ease the restrictions that weighed on the Castro regime for 54 years but failed to bring it down. Throwing into question this new state of play is the election of Donald Trump. The Republican wants more guarantees from Cuba in terms of market access and human rights.
“All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump told supporters in Miami in September.
Cuba's Fidel Castro dies at 90 https://t.co/sAGvJjQ76I pic.twitter.com/t402KwLAQd— euronews (@euronews) November 26, 2016
Death of a Revolutionary