Cuba Has Big Visitors This Month

The Rolling Stones are making a surprising detour on their Latin American tour. The destination? Havana, Cuba. The concert in Cuba will be a part of the band’s “America Latina Ole” tour, which is currently playing cities like Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, and Mexico City.

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The free concert will take place on March 25th in the Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana, a sports arena. This will be the first open air concert in the country by a British rock band. The Rolling Stones commented on their website, “We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too.”

The concert is scheduled just days after President Obama’s first visit to Cuba on March 2l to 22. Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to travel to the country in 88 years. This is another big step after the reopening of the American embassy in Cuba this past August.

Obama actually announced his upcoming visit via Twitter. “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world,” he tweeted. “Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the livesimages of the Cuban people.”

The President will meet with Cuba President Raul Castro, as well as entrepreneurs and different members of Cuban society. The President aims to continue to “chart a new course” for U.S.- Cuban relations by connecting U.S. and Cuban citizens through travel, commerce and access to information.

Cubans have also reacted positively to the announcement of the visit. “U.S. President Barack Obama will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and the Cuban people with our traditional hospitality. It will be an opportunity for (the) President to appreciate the Cuban reality,” Josefina Vidal, the general director for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry said at a news conference in Havana Thursday. “His visit will represent a step forward in relations between Cuba and the US.”

The last sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge back in 1928. However, President Coolidge traveled to Cuba on a U.S. battleship so this will be a very different type of visit.

I’m very pleased that we have been making such progress in our relations with Cuba and hope that our relationship continues to become stronger.

Catch Up on Cuba

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry will be in Havana, Cuba this Friday, August 14th for the flag raising at the newly opened U.S. embassy. President Obama said he believed that Proclamation 3447, the embargo signed by President Kennedy in 1962, has served neither country positively and that it was time to go in a new direction. Last month, the U.S. and Cuba ended a 54-year stand off and resumed diplomatic ties.

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Following the announcement, the countries performed a prisoner swap after eighteen months of negotiation, which was encouraged and also brokered by Pope Francis.

Now, Congress has to pass legislation to formally end the embargo and Obama is using his executive power to ease travel and trade restrictions. Just some of the new allowances are: travelers to use U.S. credit and debit cards, banks to facilitate authorized transactions, U.S. companies to invest in some small businesses, shipment of building materials to private Cuban companies, and U.S. insurance companies to cover health, life and travel insurance for individuals living in or visiting Cuba.

Based on government numbers, Cuba ranks 48th in the world for poverty, making it one of the least impoverished countries in the developing world. Fifteen percent of the population lives in extreme poverty; meaning most of its citizens are poor. The Cuban peso hasn’t even been convertible since the revolution and has suffered from inflation. The average Cuban worker earns $17 to $30 a month.

Since the Castro family has been in power, Cuba has made itself isolated. Between the U.S. and Cuba alone, they have endured a nuclear crisis, a long U.S. economic embargo, and political hostilities. This is has led to the country’s lack of overall wealth. The fall of the Soviet Union made matters worse, cutting Cuba off from its financial support. Cuba persisted, attempting to be self-reliant, but making them poorer. However, Cuba has recently tried to reform its economic system to open up investment to other governments and private companies to help accelerate development.

Polls show that 63 percent of Americans support resuming diplomatic relations and 66 percent support ending the trade embargo. A 2015 poll by the U.S. firm, Bendixen & Amandi International revealed that an astonishing 97 percent of Cubans favored the restoration of ties.

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Normalization between the United States and Cuba presents great opportunity for both nations. The United States will expand trade markets to one of its closest countries and an increase of capital will raise Cuba’s standard of living.