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Obama Arrives In Havana For Historic Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama talks to tourists and Cubans upon arriving at Havana Cathedral on March 20, when Obama became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba in 88 years.
U.S. President Barack Obama talks to tourists and Cubans upon arriving at Havana Cathedral on March 20, when Obama became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba in 88 years.

President Barack Obama arrived in Havana on March 20 for the start of a historic trip to Cuba – the first by a U.S. president in 88 years and a major step toward improving relations that have been strained since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

Obama tweeted "¿Que bolá Cuba?" — Spanish for "How's it going?"" -- upon arriving for his 48-hour visit, which comes 15 months after he reversed more than half a century of U.S. policy on Cuba and started normalizing relations.

The highest ranking Cuban official to greet Obama on the ground at Havana airport was Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.

Obama met first with staff of the newly reopened U.S. Embassy at a Havana hotel.

"It's a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people," Obama told them.

After greeting embassy staff, Obama and his family toured Old Havana by foot, despite a heavy downpour. 

WATCH: Obama Tours Havana, Cubans Express Concerns (VOA)

Obama was scheduled to meet with Cuba's President Raul Castro as well as political dissidents.

However, a dissident protest in Havana on March 20 was broken up just hours before Obama's arrival and about 50 demonstrators were detained.

Since the Cuban president and Obama spoke in an extended phone conversation in December 2014, Havana and Washington have restored diplomatic ties, signed telecommunications deals, and agreed to scheduled airline services.

But major differences remain – including a 54-year-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.

WATCH: Tour Havana In A '56 Chevy

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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