The year was 1928 when U.S. President Calvin Coolidge landed in Havana aboard a battleship, the USS Texas, to participate in an international conference on an island practically still American occupation. In turn, the president was largely ignored, if not openly opposed, by the Cubans. That was the last time an American president had visited Cuba.
Barack Obama landed on the island, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha on Sunday afternoon. His only armor was “The Beast,” the tank-like presidential limousine, which was transported to Havana in a C-17 Globemaster III. Residents lined the Malecon waiting to watch it pass, escorted by security services. “It will be like a movie or a show that we usually see on TV,” one of them, a university student, said.
History truly turned a page. For the first time, an American leader set foot in its Caribbean “backyard” without dictating conditions. He did not arrive as a colonial power — military, economic or cultural. On the contrary, Obama has admitted that the aggressively anti-Cuba policies adopted since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution were a failure.
Just a few years ago, nobody would have imagined this. In Havana, Obama will shake hands with a Castro without asking him to renounce his socialist convictions. Obama and President Raul Castro will discuss on an equal footing how to put a definitive end to a cold war that has lasted for more than 50 years and attempt to resolve their disagreement over Venezuela. Before meeting with Castro, he’ll lay a wreath at the memorial of independence leader José Martí at the highly symbolic Plaza de la Revolución, witness to many mass rallies and speeches of Fidel Castro.