U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Cuban President Raul Castro at an official welcoming ceremony in Havana Monday, marking the first visit to Cuba by a U.S. president in nearly ninety years (WaPo). During his two-day trip, Obama will also attend a state dinner, speak with Cuban entrepreneurs, watch the national baseball team, and meet with Cuban dissidents and civil society leaders (AP). Shortly before Obama arrived Sunday, Cuban authorities arrested dozens of members of the Ladies in White dissident group during their weekly protest for human rights (Miami Herald), exacerbating some criticism among political activists that he did not demand enough action from the Castro regime on human rights before thawing bilateral ties.
“Most expect that this trip will only accelerate the pace of shifting sentiments in the U.S. Obama’s expressed skepticism about getting the embargo lifted during his presidency or at least before the expected lame duck session post-election. But with all the members of Congress and all the business leaders he brought with him, and all the government changes and deals being announced as part of this trip, he’s hollowed out what little obstacles are left,” writes Edward Isaac-Dovere for Politico.
“Dictators dream about friendly visits from heads of state; such a favor from the president of the United States is the ultimate fantasy. It provides an endless trove of propaganda material that helps lend legitimacy to the Castro regime, whose agenda of late consists of courting big corporations desperately needed to boost a failed experiment in socialism on the one hand, and bulldozing house churches on the other,” writes Armando Valladres for the Washington Post.
“Changing our approach to Cuba is clearly in the U.S. interest—the current policy has failed to work, isolated us from others in the hemisphere, denied our citizens the right to travel, and cost us job and trade opportunities without any commensurate gains. We should move toward a new policy because it is simply the right thing for us, whether Cuba changes or not. But we should recognize too that a new, engaged, and respectful policy toward Cuba is far more likely than the old policy of isolation and polarization to advance the internal processes of reform and change already underway,” write Geoff Thale and Marc Hanson for the Washington Office on Latin America.
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