President Obama's long-awaited trip to Cuba, the first by a sitting U.S. president since 1928, has commenced.
The president landed in Cuba Sunday afternoon along with wife Michelle Obama. The Obama's daughters, as well as the president's mother-in-law were also in tow.
The family was welcomed by Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez, the head of the U.S. section of Cuba's Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal, and senior U.S. diplomat in Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis. However, President Raul Castro was nowhere in sight to greet the family, enticing Twitter backlash from Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump:
Wow, President Obama just landed in Cuba, a big deal, and Raul Castro wasn't even there to greet him. He greeted Pope and others. No respect
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2016
The two-day visit comes amidst high anticipation and tension between the Communist government and its political opposition, the Washington Post reports.
"¡Muchas gracias!" Obama said during a staff gathering upon his arrival, emphasizing a mission to "forge new agreements and commercial deals and build new ties, and for me to lay out vision future brighter than our past."
In December 2014, the U.S. restored its relations with Cuba and as a result, both nations opened embassies on each other's soil. Now, the people of Cuba hope Obama's visit will spark the change they desperately crave.
"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 continued. "We hope they think it's natural that a U.S. president would visit Cuba and the two peoples are working together."
The official welcoming ceremony takes place today at 11a.m. CDT at the Palace of the Revolution.