Obama's 'Landmark Visit': Why US President Heads to Cuba

© REUTERS / Alexandre MeneghiniTourists pass by images of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a banner that reads "Welcome to Cuba" at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana, March 17, 2016.
Tourists pass by images of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a banner that reads Welcome to Cuba at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana, March 17, 2016. - Sputnik International
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On March 20, Barack Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit Cuba in nearly nine decades in what would mark a major milestone for Cold War foes, who formally reestablished relations last year.

"I would not overestimate the importance of the visit. It comes during Obama's last year in office," Nikolai Kalashnikov, a deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Latin America Institute, told RT.

Nevertheless, the analyst called the visit "a landmark event."

"But in a way this is a visit made by a private individual, not a president. Obama could hardly influence American relations with Cuba at this point. This is more of a last effort to show that he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for a reason. I believe that the Cuba visit is Obama's sole achievement in terms of spreading peace globally," Kalashnikov added.

© Flickr / neiljsMalecón, Havana
Malecón, Havana - Sputnik International
Malecón, Havana

President Barack Obama speaks following his tour of the Saft America factory in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Experts agree that the next US president will have a greater say in setting the agenda in bilateral relations. Luis René Fernández Tabío, Professor of Economics at the University of Havana, maintains that no drastic changes will happen. "It would be hard for the next US president to reverse" Obama's policy, he told RT.

Foreign policy analyst Jorge Hernández Martínez of the University of Havana pointed to the fact that Obama's visit could be aimed at boosting the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton as its most likely frontrunner.

"If everything goes well and all the goals will be achieved, Obama will likely improve his image and enhance credibility of the Democratic candidate for president, since this person will be seen as the one, who will continue Obama's policies," the analyst told RT.

Obama's sudden policy shift has caused controversy. Unsurprisingly, not everyone in the US is happy with Washington's new course in relations with Cuba – particularly the Republicans.

© AP Photo / Paul SancyaRepublican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit.
Republican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. - Sputnik International
Republican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit.

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Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who recently suspended his White House bid, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential hopeful, chastised Barack Obama for the change. Cruz called the upcoming visit "a real mistake" at the time when the announcement was made. Interestingly, both Rubio and Cruz are Cuban-Americans.

Americans of Cuban descent have largely met Obama's policy shift on Cuba with caution, but their attitudes are changing.

A poll, conducted in December 2015, found that 56 percent of Cuban-Americans backed the decision, while 36 percent were against. In December 2014, when the policy change was announced, 48 percent of respondents were against the thaw, while 44 percent welcomed the move.

© REUTERS / Ueslei MarcelinoTourists ride in a vintage car at the 'Malecon' seafront in Havana, March 16, 2016.
Tourists ride in a vintage car at the 'Malecon' seafront in Havana, March 16, 2016. - Sputnik International
Tourists ride in a vintage car at the 'Malecon' seafront in Havana, March 16, 2016.
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