President Obama has announced he would “travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.”
Breitbart reports President Barack Obama confirmed on Twitter Thursday morning that he will visit the rogue communist dictatorship of Cuba in March, more than a year after implementing a series of concessions to the Raúl Castro regime that has enabled it to further oppress political dissent and create a refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere.
Claiming the United States had “already made significant progress” in reestablishing diplomatic ties with Havana, President Obama announced he would “travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.” He will be the first sitting American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
Next month, I'll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.
— President Obama (@POTUS) February 18, 2016
We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.
— President Obama (@POTUS) February 18, 2016
The President is expected to stop in Cuba on March 21-22, with the White House confirming that he will also visit Argentina, a nation that recently voted out of office a 12-year-old Iran-friendly, pro-Castro government. In Argentina, he is set to discuss “human rights” with the center-right capitalist President Mauricio Macri. While President Obama has claimed his White House would defend human rights in Cuba, as well, Cuba has previously boasted it will not “move one millimeter” in ceasing the abuse of its citizens’ rights.
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller has learned that President Obama will meet with Raúl Castro and “various Cuban people” during his visit.
Calling the Cuba visit "historic," @PressSec says Pres Obama will have talks with Cuban Pres Raul Castro & and with various Cuban people.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 18, 2016
The White House has been hinting for months that President Obama is looking to visit Havana. White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in early January the President was looking to make it happen, praising Castro for making “some degree of change” regarding human rights “consistent with their revolution.”
The Cuban state newspaper Granma has yet to run a headline on the news. Its most recent story on President Obama regards the visit of Cuban Minister of Exterior Commerce and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, to Washington. Malmierca argued during his visit that Congress “strongly supports” normalization of relations with Cuba, and urged President Obama to pass executive orders overriding the decades-old embargo. Raúl Castro himself issued a similar demand in December 2014, praising President Obama for helping Havana in “the actualization of our economic model to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism.”
President Obama has found some modest support among American politicians looking to profit from the Cuban regime. In December 2015, for example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited Cuba to meet with “business leaders,” refusing to meet with pro-democracy dissidents in his search for investment opportunities.
The Cuban government’s behavior since the diplomatic “thaw” has not indicated that Havana has any interest in ending its decades of oppression of pro-democracy activists, or changing an economic model that has forced millions of Cubans in the past half-century to risk the voyage to the United States. On the contrary, between January and March 2015, politically motivated arrests in Cuba increased by 70 percent. By December 2015, all those political prisoners freed as part of the diplomatic thaw had been re-imprisoned for crimes such as hanging an anti-Castro sign on their window.
Cuban dissident groups like the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Cuban Union (UNPACU) have also reported increasing violence towards them, higher rates of arrest, and bizarre instances of psychological abuse, such as the burning of copies of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a large bonfire in front of the Ladies in White headquarters in Havana.
The Czech NGO People in Need declared in December:
There has been no substantial improvement in regard to human rights and individual freedoms on the island. … [The Cuban government] has adapted its repressive methods in order to make them invisible to the scrutinizing, judgmental eyes of the international community, but it has not reduced the level of pressure or control over the opposition.
As a result of this, the U.S. Coast Guard has reported skyrocketing numbers of refugees attempting to travel to Florida on makeshift nautical vessels. Upon being found by American officials, many of these refugees, fearing a return to the Castro regime, have committed various acts of self-harm, including jumping out of the vessels and drinking bleach before being detained. A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman told Breitbart News that the fear of a repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act, prompted by President Obama’s new diplomatic efforts, is “the most significant pull factor” in pushing Cubans to attempt the trip to America.