WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama will pay an historic visit to Cuba in the coming weeks, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, becoming the first president to step foot on the island in nearly nine decades.
The brief visit in mid-March will mark a watershed moment for relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a communist nation estranged from the U.S. for half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved to relaunch ties in 2014. Since then, the nations have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.
Obama's stop in Cuba will part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip hasn't been officially announced. The White House planned to unveil Obama's travel plans Thursday.
Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba - including Republican presidential candidates.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1950s, said Obama shouldn't visit while the Castro family remains in power. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he called an "anti-American communist dictatorship."