Caribbean News Service
Havana, Cuba, Mar 20 2016 – President Barack Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday, definitively ending a half-century of estrangement in a dramatic personal demonstration of his core foreign policy principle of engaging America’s enemies.
It’s a shift that the change-minded president hopes will nudge the Communist government here to grant more freedoms to its people and open new economic channels for American businesses. The President and his allies also hope a successful détente will offer something bigger: a lasting example of diplomacy’s power in dealing with longtime foes.
Obama stepped from Air Force One carrying an umbrella as a persistent rain fell on the tarmac. Before he emerged, he sent a message to Cuba on Twitter: “¿Que bolá Cuba?” he wrote, using an informal Cuban greeting. “Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”
His first stop in Havana: a meeting with staff at the newly reopened US Embassy.
The final verdict on Obama’s Cuba policy has yet to be rendered. The regime in Havana has shown little movement toward improving human rights or opening its state-run economy, and Obama admitted this week that Congress isn’t likely to lift a longstanding trade embargo before he leaves office in January 2017.
But the sight of Air Force One landing at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport in the early evening on Sunday nonetheless represents a diplomatic metamorphosis that few could have imagined even five years ago.