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Defying rain, Obama tours old Havana on foot with familyhttps://indianexpress.com/photos/picture-gallery-others/barack-obama-cuba-us-old-havana-visit/

Defying rain, Obama tours old Havana on foot with family

President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic three-day visit to Cuba.

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Barack Obama opened the first presidential visit to Cuba in nearly 90 years on Sunday when Air Force One touched down in Havana. US and Cuba are working more closely together now than at any time since relations took a nose dive amid Cuba's 1959 revolution.

Air Force One carrying US President Barack Obama and his family flies over a neighborhood of Havana as it approaches the runway to land at Havana's international airport, March 20, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

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President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in U.S. engagement with the island's Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes. (Source: Reuters)

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The three-day trip, the first by a US president to Cuba in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014, ending an estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Malia and Sasha, exit Air Force One as they arrive at Havana's international airport for a three-day trip, in Havana March 20, 2016. (Source: REUTERS)

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Groups of Cubans watched the motorcade from balconies and backyards as Obama was driven downtown, where a small crowd of Cubans braved a tropical downpour and tight security. They chanted: "Viva Obama, Viva Fidel," as the president and his family left after eating dinner in a rundown neighborhood.

People climb a window grate as it rains in hopes of catching a glimpse of President Barack Obama during his visit to Cathedral Square in Old 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.(Source: AP)

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Obama, who abandoned a longtime U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba, wants to make his policy shift irreversible even if a Republican wins the White House in the Nov. 8 election. But major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties, and the Democratic president's critics say the visit is premature. U.S. officials concede the trip may not yield immediate concessions from Cuba on rights and economic freedom.

US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walk towards their car after arriving in Havana international airport for a three-day visit, in Havana March 20, 2016. REUTERS/stringer FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE

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On Sunday, one bystander shouted: "Down with the blockade," in reference to the U.S. embargo in place for 54 years that remains the top irritant for Cubans. Obama, who responded to the shout by raising his right hand, has asked Congress to rescind the embargo but has been blocked by the Republican leadership.

US President Barack Obama waves while standing in front of Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (R) after he arrived at Havana's international airport for a three-day trip, in Havana March 20, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

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Brushing past profound differences, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will sit down on Monday at Havana's Palace of the Revolution for a historic meeting, offering critical clues about whether Obama's sharp U-turn in policy will be fully reciprocated.
For Obama, there's no better place than Havana to show that engagement can do more than isolation to bring about tangible change on the communist island.

President Barack Obama, shakes hands with Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez as first lady Michelle Obama stands behind, right, upon arrival to the airport in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (Source: AP)

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In his first few hours on the island, Obama created indelible images of a new U.S-Cuba relationship as he walked the rain-soaked streets of Havana and dined at a privately-owned restaurant in a bustling, working-class neighborhood. Jubilant crowds surged toward his heavily fortified motorcade, reminders of the Cuban people's deep affection for Americans despite decades of enmity between their governments.

US President Barack Obama steps over a puddle while touring Old Havana with his family, in Havana March 20, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

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Strolling through the grand cobblestoned plazas of Old Havana with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama created an indelible image for both Cubans and Americans of the peacemaking that he and Castro have cautiously but doggedly pursued.
On his first full day in Cuba, Obama was to lay a wreath Monday at the memorial to Jose Marti, a Cuban independence hero, before heading to Castro's presidential offices.

US President Barack Obama stands near a portrait of Abraham Lincoln as he is guided on a tour of Old Havana, in Havana March 20, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet children and families of embassy personnel during an event at Melia Habana Hotel, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)