Obama announces historic visit to Cuba next month

WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday said he will visit Cuba on March 21 and 22 and meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, in the first U.S. presidential trip to the country in nearly 90 years as relations between the former adversaries thaw.

“Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people,” Obama wrote in a post on Twitter.

Obama said that while the United States still has differences with Cuba, it has already made significant progress in normalizing ties with the its former Cold War foe. The two nations made a surprise announcement in December 2014 that they would move to reopen ties.

“(Fourteen) months ago, I announced that we would begin normalizing relations with Cuba – and we’ve already made significant progress,” Obama wrote.

Obama had said he would visit the neighboring Communist-ruled nation if he were able to meet with political dissidents on the trip.

On Thursday he said: “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.”

During the trip, Obama will have the opportunity to meet with Castro, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, wrote in separate blog post.

Officials on Wednesday had said the Cuba visit will be part of Obama’s broader trip to Latin America.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Megan Cassella; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and W Simon)

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