A new era in United States and Cuba relations was heralded with a visit by President Barack Obama to the island nation.
Obama was the first sitting US president to visit Cuba since 1928. He spent time at the reopened US embassy in Havana an occasion he called “historic”. He also met with President Raul Castro to discuss trade and political reform, but not retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
“Back in 1928,” Obama said, “President [Calvin] Coolidge came on a battleship. It took him three days to get here, it only took me three hours. For the first time ever, Air Force One has landed in Cuba and this is our very first stop.” He added the trip was a chance to for him to lay out a “vision for a future that is brighter than our past”.
The tour was meant to see Obama, his wife Michelle, two daughters and mother-in-law, interacting with ordinary Cubans on the streets, but this part of the itinerary was marred by a tropical storm.
The government hoped the two-day visit will allow it to reap benefits without ceding control to the US, while dissidents on the island wanted it to speed the pace of change.