As part of their ongoing world-wide tour of some of the most exotic and controversial places in the world, the Obama family is preparing for a trip to Cuba — the first visit by a U.S. president to the island since President Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
The official business will have to wait. According to the president’s schedule, he and first lady Michelle Obama, together with their daughters Sasha and Malia, will leave tomorrow morning for Havana. (Obama’s mother-in-law Marian Robinson will also join the family trip.)
After making their arrival, they are scheduled for a walking tour of Old Havana including the Havana Cathedral, the Plaza de Armas, Museo de la Ciudad, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de San Francisco.
The first family will also be welcomed to the Revolutionary Palace on Tuesday by Fidel Castro’s brother Raul Castro. The president and the first lady will also attend a State dinner, hosted by Raul Castro.
Obama will also deliver a characteristically dramatic speech to the Cuban people at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater before attending an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National baseball team that evening.
The White House signaled optimism on Friday that Obama’s visit would help stop the lengthy history of political atrocities in the communist regime and bring economic reform to the country.
“[T]he President of the United States is going to get on Air Force One, he’s going to fly to Havana, Cuba, and he is going to sit down with the leader of Cuba and say, you need to do a better job of protecting the human rights of your people,” Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday.
The novelty of visiting the previously banned travel site has attracted other Democrats to join the president.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 15 other House Democrats will be joining Obama, as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar, Dick Durbin, Heidi Heitkamp, Patrick Leahy, and Tom Udall.
Several Republican members of Congress are also expected to join Obama for the trip, according to Reuters — Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Mark Heller, and Representatives Mark Sandord, Tom Emmer, and Reid Ribble.
Obama also plans to visit the memorial site of Cuban Revolutionary José Martí. He will also join Cuban entrepreneurs to discuss the future of doing business with the United States again.
To combat the notion that Obama is ignoring the plight of Cuban dissidents, the White House has signaled that he will speak with human rights activists — even though that list has yet to be revealed.
Will Obama meet with Fidel Castro? According to U.S. government officials, the president will not meet the 89-year-old reclusive communist leader, who has remained publicly out of sight due to health problems.
“We’ve had no discussion about that meeting taking place, and we certainly wouldn’t seek it,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in an interview with Reuters. When asked if a meeting was ruled out, Rhodes said, “Yes.”
The last time Castro appeared in public was in April, 2015, after Obama announced his decision to normalize diplomatic ties with the communist regime.