By MELISSA CABRAL
President Barack Obama made history on Sunday when he became the first president to visit Cuba in 90 years. The president was joined by his wife Michelle Obama, her mother, and daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted with a warm welcome by Cuba’s top officials with one important figure visibly missing, President Raul Castro.
The Cuban leader met Obama the following day at the Palace of the Revolution in Old Havana and shook hands and sat down for a meeting where major topics were discussed.
Obama’s visit is part of his effort to let go of the past and build a new, positive relationship with Cuba after decades of hostility between the island and the U.S.
Obama announced that he wants to take on the hard task of coming to an agreement with the Castro administration to improve the human rights system through out the country.
“Change is going to happen here and I think that Raul Castro understands that,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News taped Sunday night.
“Our intention has been to get the ball rolling, knowing that change wasn’t going to happen overnight,” Obama said. “Although we still have significant differences around human rights and individual liberties inside of Cuba, we felt that coming now would maximize our ability to prompt more change.”
Before their sit-down, as they walked through, Obama was overheard telling Castro that he enjoyed his tour of Havana Sunday night along with his family.
He toured the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and met with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a major key to improving the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Outside of the cathedral, thousands of Cuban residents gathered hoping to catch a quick glimpse of the American president and his family as they stepped out of the church.
With the newly relaxed restrictions on who can travel to Cuba, thousands of more Americans are expected to follow the Obamas’ footsteps and fly to Cuba. This will hopefully not only build a new dynamic between Cubans and Americans but also improve their economy.
The Cuban public was thrilled to have the American president setting foot in their country. The last U.S. president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.