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President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to discuss his upcoming trip to Havana next month, ending with words in Spanish for the Cuban people: “Nos vemos en la Habana,” (“See you in Havana.”).
The White House announced on Wednesday that Obama would be heading to Cuba March 21-22 to advance a year-old effort to normalize relations with the island’s communist government. It will be the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in almost 90 years.
The 3-minute video address from the White House was the second time Obama has used Spanish in a speech about Cuba. While announcing his new policy with Cuba in December 2014 he also used a Spanish phrase popular in Cuba - "No es fácil," ("It's not easy") -to show that he was aware how difficult daily life on the island is.
The announcement of the Cuba trip has come under attack from some Cuban American politicians, including Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are both sons of Cuban immigrants.
Supporters of the new Cuba policy say by speaking directly to the Cuban people over the heads of the Cuban government Obama is sending a strong message of American solidarity with Cubans seeking greater economic and political freedom.
“I believe that the best way to advance American interests and values, and the best way to help the Cuban people improve their lives, is through engagement,” Obama said on Saturday. “Change won’t come to Cuba overnight. But as Cuba opens up, it will mean more opportunity and resources for ordinary Cubans,” he added, noting that polls indicate “overwhelming support for this new relationship.”
Obama said he will meet with Cuban private sector entrepreneurs as well as members of civil society whom he described as “courageous men and women who give voice to the aspirations of the Cuban people.
”Obama used his address to ask for patience, saying his new policy would not bring change to Cuba overnight. “This transformation will take time,” he said, adding that he believed his visit would promote “American interests and values and a better future for the Cuban people, a future of more freedom and more opportunity.”