President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro sat down March 21 at Havana’s Palace of the Revolution for a historic meeting.
Obama is the first American president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years as part of a process to improve ties with the island shunned by the U.S. for decades.
The president’s first bold move came in 2014 when he made the surprise announcement that the United States was renewing diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time since January 1961, when the Cuban government nationalized of U.S. holdings on the island. The United States broke off diplomatic relations and imposed an economic blockade on the Caribbean nation in efforts to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro, who lead an armed revolt.
The economic embargo remains largely in effect and can only be changed by Congress. Still Obama is using his executive authority to ease restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba.
His softer policy has unleashed criticism from Cuban-American lawmakers and others who warn the decision would be a blow to the U.S. tough-on-communism policy and reward Cuba after decades of human rights violations. However, it has garnered praise from business groups, with expectations of even more momentous changes on the island.