For decades, the US and Cuba were engaged in a bitter stand-off, triggered by the overthrow of US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista by Communist leader Fidel Castro in 1959. President Obama was the first sitting US president to visit since the 1959 revolution, which preceded decades of hostility between the two countries.

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“We hope they think it’s natural that a U.S. president would visit Cuba and the two peoples are working together,” Obama said.

The trip, applauded by many and a welcome sight for Cubans who cheered “USA!” at Obama’s arrival, was condemned by members of the GOP, who have long criticized the president’s efforts to open the lines of communication between the island and the U.S. Mr Obama said change would happen in Cuba and that Cuban President Raul Castro understood that. The two leaders are meeting to talk about trade and are scheduled to hold a joint news conference.

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“For the first time, the American flag flies over an embassy, and having the embassy here means we can more effectively advance our interests and values and understand the Cuban people and their concerns,” Obama said.

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