5 Things We Expect to See on President Obama’s Trip to Cuba

Michael Maisel.-- As the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the Cuban travel and trade embargo, Engage Cuba wholeheartedly endorses President Obama’s decision to visit Cuba. This historic Presidential visit will benefit U.S. interests as well as the Cuban people. And it is a vital step towards reestablishing normal ties with our Cuban neighbors. After decades of destructive, isolationist policies towards Cuba, the Obama administration has taken multiple, meaningful steps to constructively engage with the island, making more progress in the last year than in the five decades prior.
Engage Cuba’s Policy Council Advisors have written extensively about some of the momentous developments we can expect to take place during President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip in Cuba. Below, we’ve highlighted five of the most significant and symbolic items that we anticipate will take place next week in Havana:

1. A bipartisan congressional delegation will travel to Cuba.

(From left: Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Secretary of State John Kerry)
Engage Cuba was founded in the spirit of bipartisanship, which is epitomized in our senior advisers’ collaboration on this issue. The robust bipartisan congressional delegation that will accompany the President on this trip underlines that U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba crosses party lines.

2. U.S. businesses will strike deals in Cuba.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, AT&T, Starwood, and Marriott all expect to sign business deals to operate in Cuba leading up to President Obama’s trip. It’s Engage Cuba’s stance that every deal that happens shows we’re moving forward and makes the whole process of U.S.-Cuba normalization irreversible. It also argues for why we need a full lifting of the embargo to get the major deals that we all want to see.

3. Human rights will be discussed.

Raul Castro shakes hands with President Obama at the Summit for the Americas in Panama in April 2015.

President Obama will meet with his counterpart Raul Castro. Behind closed doors, as Engage Cuba Policy Advisor Christopher Sabatini suggests, President Obama will likely “press for the Cuban government to make good on allowing credible international monitors, such as the ICRC or the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, to come to Cuba to visit the country’s prisons and to assess the country’s human rights situation. Doing so will not only help justify Obama’s trip, it will also signal a big step in the country’s re-integration into the global order.”

4. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will see first-hand the changes underway in Cuba.

A Cuban family uses one of the new Wi-Fi hotspots to communicate with their loved ones abroad. Photo: Kaloian Santos
Significant change is underway in Cuba. Private entrepreneurship is burgeoning, public Wi-Fi hotspots are sprouting up, citizens and residents can purchase and sell property, and civil society activity is expanding. As the President and First Lady — along with an entourage of correspondents — tour Havana, they will undoubtedly take note that Cuba is in an important moment of flux.

5. Baseball diplomacy will be in full swing.

Photo by Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesThe Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to play the 
Cuban national baseball team on March 22. Derek Jeter will join the MLB to witness the historic game. The last time a major American baseball team visited Cuba was in 1999 when the Baltimore Orioles faced off with the Cubans. Engage Cuba Senior Advisor Luke Albee was there for the historic game, and Engage Cuba will be at the 2016 game to celebrate sports diplomacy once again. Not only is the President expected to attend the game, but there is also widespread anticipation that the MLB will reach a deal that would allow Cuban players to legally play in the U.S. big leagues./Courtesy of @JamesWilliams9

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