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Obama To Visit Cuba Next Month

President Obama with Cuban President Raúl Castro during their historic meeting in April 2015 at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City. i

President Obama with Cuban President Raúl Castro during their historic meeting in April 2015 at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

toggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Obama with Cuban President Raúl Castro during their historic meeting in April 2015 at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

President Obama with Cuban President Raúl Castro during their historic meeting in April 2015 at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Building on the opening to Cuba he launched 14 months ago, President Obama will visit the island as part of a multi-nation Latin America trip planned for next month.

According to Thursday's formal announcement by the White House, the president and first lady will travel to Cuba on March 21-22. "In Cuba, the President will work to build on the progress we have made toward normalization of relations with Cuba — advancing commercial and people-to-people ties that can improve the well-being of the Cuban people, and expressing our support for human rights," the statement read.

Obama's trip to Cuba will be the first by a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge visited the island in 1928.

Following secret negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba, Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the restoration of diplomatic relations in December 2014. A prisoner exchange was carried out at the same time.

Embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., were reopened last summer.

On Tuesday the two nations signed an agreement to restore scheduled commercial air service for the first time in decades, as early as later this year. The U.S. Department of Transportation will open bidding by American air carriers for as many as 110 flights per day.

Word that Obama will visit Cuba brought immediate criticism from Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, both sons of Cuban immigrants to the U.S.

Cruz said Obama should not visit Cuba while the Castro family remains in power. Rubio condemned the planned visit to an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

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