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Obama's visit to Cuba opens new chapter

By Xinhua | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-03-21 10:48

Obama's visit to Cuba opens new chapter

US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle tour Old Havana at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba on Sunday. Carlos Barria / Reuters

US President Barack Obama arrived on Sunday in Cuba, in a historic visit that could mark the beginning of a new era in US relations with its neighbor in more than 50 years.

The visit, the first by a US president since 1928, marks the most important moment since Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in December 2014 to restore diplomatic ties and end half a century of hostility following Cuba's revolution, which ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

Obama is joined by his wife Michelle and their two daughters for a three-day trip.

Havana Vieja, or Old Havana, the capital's historic district, was the first place Obama visited on Sunday on a walking tour of key sites, such as Havana's Cathedral, Plaza Vieja and San Francisco Square, as well as the Museum of the City.

The tour highlights the history, cultural significance, and beauty of the city, which is declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1982.

On Monday, Obama will lay a wreath at a memorial to Cuba's national hero Jose Marti at Revolution Square before meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro.

He will be welcomed by Castro at an official ceremony, before the two leaders hold a closed-door meeting, after which they are expected to hold a joint press conference.

Also on Monday, Obama will meet with Cuban and American entrepreneurs to hear about their experiences and explore opportunities to develop long-term relationships, despite the economic and trade embargo Washington continues to impose on Cuba.

Prior to his trip, the Cuban government ruled out the possibility of offering political concessions to Washington as a precondition to restoring full bilateral ties with the United States.

Havana stressed Washington's economic and financial blockade of the island remains in force despite new measures announced last week by the White House to relax aspects of the embargo.

The trip is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014.

While the rapprochement is clearly driven by pragmatic need, both countries stand to benefit, Cuban Communist Party daily Granma noted in a recent editorial.

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