QCOSTARICA – U.S. President Barack Obama is planning an historic visit to Cuba next month, a senior administration official said Wednesday night, making him the first serving United States president to step foot on the island in nearly nine decades.
The official told news agencies details would be announced Thursday as part of a larger tour by Obama of Latin America and coinciding with a trip by a Major League Baseball team. Cubans have a passion for the baseball.
U.S. – Cuba normalization plans were announced in December 2014. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met a year later, last April in Panama, where Obama said he would consider visiting Cuba.
On Tuesday, the two countries signed a deal restoring commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, since the United States cut diplomatic relations in 1961 after Castro’s brother, Fidel Castro, seized power of the island.
Immediately after signing the commercial flights deal, the US Department of Transportation opened bidding by American carriers on as many as 110 US-Cuba flights a day. All flights currently operating between the two countries are charters.
In Costa Rica, no word from the Cuban community or the hundreds of Cuban migrants still stranded in Costa Rica since last November, now able to board weekly flights to Mexico, to reach the U.S. border.
In interviews, many fo the Cuban migrants said one of the reasons behind their journey to reach the U.S. starting in Ecuador, moving through Colombia, Central America and Mexico to reach the U.S. border, was the possible removal of the “wet foot, dry foot” law, the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 giving special immigration privileges to Cubans setting foot in the U.S., once the two countries normalized relations.
In the U.S., at a Republican presidential campaign forum in Greenville, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida criticized reports of Obama’s plans, calling Castro’s government “an anti-American communist dictatorship.”Asked whether he would ever visit Cuba as president, Rubio — whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1956 — said, “Not if it’s not a free Cuba.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whose father was born in Cuba and was granted political asylum in the United States, said he was “saddened” by the news and vowed never to visit the country “as long as Castro is in power.”
Florida is a major destination for most Cubans leaving the island; Texas is the main entry point of the Cuban migrants into the U.S.