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Obama's Move on Cuba

What to Make of the Historic Trip

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, April 11, 2015. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In February, shortly after the White House announced U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 21-22—the first of any sitting U.S. president in 88 years—a meme began circulating on Cubans’ Facebook feeds. In it, Obama confidently throws down the winning piece in a dominoes game against the leading Republican presidential candidates at the time, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. The caption reads, “Se pegó,” which translates roughly to “Gotcha” or “Checkmate.”

Critics who decry Obama’s visit to Cuba, including Cruz and Rubio, might be in the minority, since opinion polls reveal that the U.S. public is largely supportive of the move. But this image of the president confidently scoring geostrategic points contradicts a more complex reality on the ground. In some respects, the U.S.-Cuban rapprochement is still tenuous, and Obama’s visit is necessary to give a

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