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Thursday, 18 February 2016 16:14

US president to pay Cuba a visit: Officials

US president to pay Cuba a visit: Officials
US President Barack Obama is set to take a trip to Cuba in the coming weeks, in a move that will make him the first American leader to visit the island nation in nearly seven decades.

Senior US administration officials said Wednesday that the brief visit will come in mid-March, AP reported.

The communist state has been under US embargoes for half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved to re-launch relations more than a year ago.

Since then, the two countries have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.

Obama's stop in Cuba will be part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip has not been officially announced.

Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba, including Republican presidential hopefuls.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the US from Cuba in the 1950s, said Obama should not visit while the Castro family remains in power.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he called an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

No sitting president has visited Havana since President Calvin Coolidge traveled there in 1928.

President Harry Truman visited the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay on the southeast end of the island in 1948, and former President Jimmy Carter has paid multiple visits to the island since leaving office.

MG

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