US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama landed in Cuba on Sunday to begin a historic trip to the nation after decades of a strained relationship. The president’s arrival was cheered by a small crowd which was not dampened by rain or the heavy police presence.
The three-day trip by the president and his wife is the first such trip by a US president in 88 years. The trip followed an announcement of a diplomatic opening by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014, which marked the thaw between the two cold war foes. The nations came on bitter terms with each other after the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.
“It’s a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people,” the Reuters quoted Obama as telling the staff of the newly reopened U.S. Embassy.
The US first lady is expected to speak to Cuban students in Havana on Monday, the Havana Times reported. The interaction with the young Cuban students will take place at the Cuban Art Factory, which is a place of leisure and culture. Cubans who have been educated in the US will also be participating in the interactions.
The presidential couple was accompanied by their daughters Sasha and Malia and also Marian Robinson, the mother of the first lady.
The Obamas received a warm welcome every place they visited in Cuba on their first day, as the president announced to cheers, “Yes we did!”
“For the first time, the American flag flies over an embassy, and having the embassy here means we can more effectively advance our interests and values and understand the Cuban people and their concerns,” the NBC news quoted Obama as saying. “We hope they think it’s natural that a U.S. president would visit Cuba and the two peoples are working together.”
However, the president’s visit to the once rival nation did not go down well with some of the Republican presidential hopefuls in America.
“Wow, President Obama just landed in Cuba, a big deal, and Raul Castro wasn’t even there to greet him. He greeted Pope and others. No respect,” tweeted Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
However, the White House said that it took no offense that the Cuban president could not be there to greet Obama upon his arrival.