Obama, Michelle Land in Cuba

Dissidents are arrested just before Air Force One lands
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2016 4:00 PM CDT
Obama, Michelle Land in Cuba
President Barack Obama, right, arrives with first lady Michelle Obama as they exit Air Force One at the airport in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Obama's trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro's ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Obama made history today by landing in Cuba—the first visit there by a US president in almost 90 years. Obama arrived with first lady Michelle, their two daughters, his mother-in-law, and dozens of business executives seeking opportunities, but not everything went smoothly in the hours before Air Force One touched down at José Martí International Airport, the New York Times reports. Members of the dissident group Ladies in White were arrested today during their weekly march in Havana, confirming the endurance of repressive government tactics. "We thought there would be a truce, but it wasn’t to be," says Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation. The activists were nabbed "in the moment that Obama was flying in the air to Cuba," says Sánchez.

What's more, nine of 27 Cuban migrants died of dehydration in a harrowing attempt to reach Florida, the US Coast Guard said after a cruise ship rescued the survivors on Friday, the Miami Herald reports. "It’s crazy how desperate they were to get to the US," says a videographer who shot apparent footage of the migrants. "It makes me feel so grateful for being an American." On the bright side, the Obamas plan to walk around Old Havana today (where buildings on their route have been repainted in fresh pastels) before the president visits Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who aided the rapprochement with Cuba in 2014. Obama is slated to meet President Raùl Castro on Monday and attend an exhibition baseball game Tuesday between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, NPR reports. (More President Obama stories.)

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