Newswise — When Air Force One landed in Cuba on March 20th, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years to visit the island nation. Cuba expert Richard N. Gioioso, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia offers his thoughts on the significance of the visit and the message President Obama will bring to the Cuban people.

“President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba offers new hope to Cuban citizens that change is possible on the island and elsewhere. This trip solidifies a major foreign policy feat for President Obama. Since the process of U.S.-Cuba normalization began in December 2014, we have witnessed the mutual release of prisoners, increased travel, business and investment opportunities for Americans in Cuba, the reestablishment of formal diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana, as well as a new approach to facilitating greater political and economic change in Cuba. President Obama is traveling with a large group of Congress members, and will meet with both President Raúl Castro and with Cuban dissidents. In his remarks he will undoubtedly extend support to the Cuban people. At the same time, he will criticize aspects of the Cuban government that restrict freedoms and suppress the attainment of human rights ideals.

In short, his visit serves to further encourage and inspire Cuban citizens to believe that greater change is possible, and they can and should take an active role in making that happen.”

Gioioso, who speaks fluent Spanish, can be reached for comment at [email protected], or by calling 610-660-1750, or 610-660-3240.