It is a small country just 90 miles from the U.S state of Florida. But it has taken nearly 90 years for a U.S President to visit it.
President Obama is making history on his official visit to Cuba - the first time that a sitting President has visited this communist country since 1928. As we had written earlier, Cuba has been opening up its doors under the leadership of President Raul Castro.
On his two day trip, the President toured old Havana - the country's capital and met with a Cuban clergyman who played a role in mending the relationship between U.S and Cuba. Obama dined with his family at a 'paladar' - one of the many privately-owned restaurants. For decades, Cubans were not allowed to run private businesses, but all that is changing now.
A Brief History Of US-Cuba Relations
After World War II, countries around the world either allied themselves with the United States or the Soviet Union. This was the time of the Cold War. Fearing that communism might take over the world, the US and its allies embarked on stopping it from spreading.
In 1959 Cuba faced a revolt when Fidel Castro took over the country. Castro ordered the takeover of farmlands, banks and private institutions - most of which were under the control of US companies. He established a “socialist” order where everyone worked for the state. Cuba allied itself with Russia and adopted a communist ideology. Prior to the Cold War, the US had a big presence in Cuba. Although the Cold War ended in 1991, US-Cuban relations continued to remain tense.
Since the thawing of relations, the US has released Cuban prisoners, agreed to increase trade and travel between the two countries, and reopen diplomatic relations. The number of Americans visiting Cuba increased by 77 percent in 2015 -- that number will only increase further as US airlines open up direct flights to Cuba.
President Obama's trip comes a year after he opened trade between the two countries. However, he has not been able to lift the trade embargo, which can only be done by Congress. In a press conference, Cuban President Raul Castro referred to the opening and that more needs to be done. He also called on Obama to return Guantanamo Bay - a territory located on the south-east end of Cuba where the US has a naval base and a high-security prison.
President Obama, on his part, pressed Castro on issues of human rights and political freedoms for all Cubans. Cuba has a single-party system. Media is owned and controlled by the government. Anyone opposing the government is arrested and held without trial. Obama will be meeting with Cuban dissidents and also addressing the Cuban people on television.
The residents of this tiny country were certainly excited about Obama's visit. This may be the first step in normalizing relations between the two countries.