US President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba marks a new stage in the development of bilateral relations, politicians and analysts worldwide agree.
Following a packed schedule from March 20th to 22nd Obama was seen off by his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, ending a historic visit.
This is the second visit made by a US president to Cuba, following that of Calvin Coolidge in 1928. As part of the process towards normalizing relations that began on December 17, 2014, Obama came to the island accompanied by his family and an entourage of forty Congress members. On the first day of their stay they toured the oldest parts of the capital known as La Habana Vieja, Old Havana.
The Head of State paid tribute to Cuba’s National Hero José Martí at the monument that honors the hero in the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square.)
Later that day he held official talks with his host President Raúl Castro, where the dignitaries discussed areas of mutual interest where both nations can advance despite their differences.
At the end of the meeting the heads of state offered statements to the national and international press. The Cuban leader expressed his will to move ahead with civilized coexistence and to promote ties to benefit their countries and people. He stressed a “focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us,” and highlighted steps already taken to move forward in the process of restoring normal relations.
Meanwhile, Obama acknowledged Cuba’s “extraordinary” achievements in areas such as health and education, while reaffirming some steps taken by his administration to move forward with the Island – this, despite the economic, commercial and financial embargo that Washington imposed on Cuba over half a century ago, which Cuba identifies as the main obstacle to full normalization. After his meeting with Raúl Castro the head of the White House participated in a business forum with entrepreneurs from both countries, where he underlined that the Cuban economy is changing and the United States is keen to take part in this process. Obama’s last day was marked by a speech to Cuban civil society representatives at the recently restored Alicia Alonso Grand Theater, el Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.
The visit ended with a friendly baseball game between Cuba’s national team and American Major League team, the Tampa Bay Rays, that Obama attended with Raúl Castro.
Obama shared his vision of the new scenarios opening up in the relationship between the two nations whose people, he said, share values beyond their differences and are united by historical and cultural ties.