U.S. President Barack Obama is due to cap his historic visit to Cuba with a speech to the Cuban people that was expected to include remarks about the nation’s poor human rights record. The speech is scheduled for delivery at 10:10 a.m. EST Tuesday at the El Gran Teatro de Havana in the Cuban capital.
Obama's speech is also an opportunity to take stock of the complicated history between the U.S. and Cuba, as this week's trip marked the first time in 90 years that a sitting U.S. visit. Last year, the Obama administration announced plans to normalize relations with the communist nation and begin lifting a Cold War-era embargo that restricted the nation's economy and diplomatic relations with U.S. allies.
To watch a live stream of the Obama's remarks, click here.
Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, told reporters in an advance briefing of the Cuba trip that Obama's speech will "lay out his vision for how the United States and Cubans can work together, to how the Cuban people can pursue a better life,” according to a Voice of America report.
Following the speech, Obama planned to meet with members of Cuba's civil society. Obama, after extensive talks with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana Monday, said the U.S. position has always been one that promotes fairness and human rights for the Cuban people.
"As we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future," the U.S. president said. "We'll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly and religion."
Obama and Castro have publicly disagreed over the definition of human rights. Castro, in response to questions about the nation's human rights record Monday, rapped his American counterparts for failing to provide universal healthcare and free education to all U.S. citizens, which Castro considers to be human rights.
In recent years, the Cuban government released some political prisoners and has taken small steps to open up internet access and other limited communications infrastructure. However, the more recent Human Rights Watch report blasted the Cuban government for continuing to “rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights.”