WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says his upcoming visit to Cuba will advance U.S. efforts to restore ties with the communist nation and improve the lives of Cubans.
Obama will be making the first trip to Cuba by a sitting president in more than half a century. He says on Twitter there’s already been significant progress.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the U.S. still has “serious differences” with Cuban President Raul Castro’s government. He says Obama will raise issues of human rights and political freedoms in discussions with Castro.
Rhodes says the U.S. doesn’t want to “impose change” but believes Cuba will benefit from free expression of universal rights.
Obama’s brief stop is planned for March 21-22. The White House says Obama will also visit Argentina.
Meanwhile, the news that President Barack Obama will visit Cuba next month isn’t sitting well with Americans who’ve been opposed to normalizing ties with the communist country.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who was born in Cuba, calls the visit “absolutely shameful.” And Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says Obama shouldn’t visit Cuba while the Castro family remains in power.
Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, has lambasted the president for visiting what Rubio calls an “anti-American communist dictatorship.”