Obama and Castro Meet in Pivotal Moment in U.S.-Cuba Thaw

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HAVANA — The commandants of the United States and Cuba made history Monday, meeting for the word go official talks between their governments in decades.

In a colorful greeting ceremony in the Cuban capital, President Barack Obama and his host, President Raúl Castro, meandered amicably st an honor guard and assembled dignitaries.

The leaders are required to discuss a th toward normalizing relations, a shift begun in till 2014 when, in a stunning announcement, they embarked on a restoration of thorough diplomatic relations.

Both men are venturing into diplomatic territory that had frustrated their predecessors, amid mutual mistrust dating from Theodore Roosevelt’s assault up San Juan Hill to the Cuban missile crisis and beyond. Profound arguments still divide the two nations economically and politically, including the U.S. trade hold back and Cuban human rights issues.

U.S. officials said Obama projected to raise the issue of Cuba’s repressive tactics, on display in the days important up to the president’s visit as the government detained dissidents who could cause a deviation from the official script.

The Cubans, accustomed to exerting tight guide over everything that happens on the island, have spent weeks admonishing townswomen against disrupting Obama’s visit or questioning government authority during the set off.

During the welcoming ceremony at the lace of the Revolution on Monday, the leaders unnerve hands warmly before inspecting a military honor guard.

Obama appeared to gross a point of walking over to the Cuban military band leader as the solemnity concluded to congratulate him on its performance of “The Star-S ngled Banner” — a national anthem that is unseemly to be in its repertoire.

“Good job,” Obama was overheard saying.

Obama also wrest money from hands with an array of U.S. and Cuban officials, who were lined up on divergent sides of the long, narrow room.

The choreography of Monday’s session has teaching the U.S. and Cuban governments for weeks. Both are determined to showcase a new dynamic of deep regard and engagement while insisting they have conceded none of their probities.

White House officials were still not sure in the final hours forward of the meeting whether there would be a question-and-answer session with news-hounds afterward, a standard element of Obama’s visits with foreign leaders but one to which Castro does not submit.

Monday’s conference was the presidents’ third face-to-face meeting since the new policy was announced in December 2014.

They met and shiver hands in April 2015 at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere realms in nama City, and they spoke in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Setting up, when Obama told Castro he would like to visit this year if the states were right.

Before his talks with Castro on Monday, the president kept a wreath at the memorial to José Martí, a journalist and poet whose ideals are invoked with zeal in both Miami and Havana.

Martí is that rare progeny whom both sides of a feuding family claim as their own. Or, as Achy Obejas, the Cuban-American novelist, put it: “He’s a small like the Bible: Whatever you want to find support for, there’s normally a little something in his work that will reflect your die for.”

“Want some really gripping anti-imperialist words implicating the U.S. as a bully? Got it,” she whispered. “Want some poetry exalting individual freedom? Got it. A little anti-racism? No unruly. Warnings about dictators? Here it is.”

In Havana on Monday, many Cubans calm seemed uncertain about whether they had permission to try to see Obama, on no account mind express a point of view. Cubans all over the city earmarks ofed to be constantly asking where Obama would be — and then not going.

Out of doors the venue at the edge of Old Havana where the president was scheduled to meet with U.S. topic leaders and Cuban entrepreneurs in the afternoon, most of the people waiting for his advent were foreign tourists.

When asked questions about Obama’s upon, several Cubans outside a small store with a view of the fingers on turned away without saying a word. State security deputies — some uniformed, others wearing jeans and mirrored sunglasses — plainly watched and listened.

A few blocks away, Cubans and foreigners found themselves contest into U.S. lawmakers and VIPs touring the city.

Sen. trick J. Leahy, D-Vt., was spotted by the cathedral; Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., was also affable to find. Walking the streets with a single aide, wearing a seersucker adapt and a Tam Bay Rays baseball cap, Rangel said he could not have been luckier. He spent decades in Congress working to end the Cuban embargo.

He said he was cool that restored relations would yield benefits for Cubans and Americans.

“I on no account knew we could bring such a crack in the wall,” he said. “We’re creating the virtuous conditions for when change really comes.”

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