President Obama announces trip to Cuba on Twitter

WASHINGTON (WLS) -- President Obama will travel to Cuba in March, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot on the island nation in nearly 90 years. He initially announced the trip on Twitter, and it was confirmed by a statement from White House Press Secretary Ben Rhodes.

"President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Cuba on March 21st and 22nd and Argentina on March 23rd and 24th. In Cuba, the President will work to build on the progress we have made toward normalization of relations with Cuba - advancing commercial and people-to-people ties that can improve the well-being of the Cuban people, and expressing our support for human rights. In addition to holding a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama will engage with members of civil society, entrepreneurs and Cubans from different walks of life. This historic visit - the first by a sitting U.S. President in nearly 90 years - is another demonstration of the President's commitment to chart a new course for U.S.-Cuban relations and connect U.S. and Cuban citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information," the White House statement said.

President Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro announced the beginning of a process to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba in December of 2014. Diplomatic relations were formally re-established on July 20, 2015 with the opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C.

This week the U.S. and Cuba signed an agreement to allow commercial flights between the two countries to begin again.

Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Havana since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. According to the State Department historian's office, President Harry Truman visited the U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay and its naval base on the southeast end of the island in 1948 and former President Jimmy Carter has paid multiple visits to the island since leaving office in January 1981.

Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who both have Cuban parentage, have decried the President's decision. Cruz, whose father fled Cuba in the 1950s, said he thinks the trip is "a real mistake," and said "the president ought to instead be pushing for a free Cuba." Rubio, who is also a child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he calls an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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