During his historic multi-day tour of communist Cuba, President Obama posed for some instantly iconic photos on Monday to commemorate his restoration of relations between the U.S. and the fifth most repressive government in the world.
"Outside the palace in Havana's sprawling Revolution Square, Obama posed for a photo in front of a giant sculpture of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, creating an indelible image sure to reverberate in Cuba and beyond," reports AP. "The revolutionary leader was once one of Fidel Castro's top lieutenants, his face an iconic symbol of Cuba's revolution that is revered by some but reviled by others."
Why is Che Gueverra "reviled" by many? Because he was a brutal mass-murderer, Fidel's chief executioner, who helped erect a tyrannical military state to enslave his own people. But of course, the facts don't matter when it comes to t-shirts and photo-ops.
Obama also spent some time paying tribute to another Cuban hero, Jose Marti, who helped push for independence from Spain. The president paused in front of Marti's giant, 59-foot statue and, according to AP, even adjusted a wreath at the foot of the statue.
"It is a great honor to pay tribute to Jose Marti, who gave his life for independence of his homeland," Obama wrote in the Marti monument guestbook. "His passion for liberty, freedom, and self-determination lives on in the Cuban people today."
Despite Obama having lifted U.S. restrictions on travel and commerce with Cuba, a potentially massive boon to its economy, those who have been observing the country closely over the last year have not seen any significant moves toward a more democratic and humanitarian government. In fact, just hours before the president's plane touched down, the Castro regime violently arrested over 50 dissidents.
Despite some loosening on restrictions on businesses and cellphones in previous years, the country remains tightly controlled by the government, which maintains a single-party system and refuses to allow political dissent or access to media. Less than 5 percent of Cuban households have access to the internet.
Regardless of the Castro regime's continued iron-fisted control of its people, Obama presented an optimistic message Sunday about his visit, which he touted as having "enormous popularity" among the people.
"We felt that coming now would maximize our ability to prompt more change," Obama told reporters. "Particularly because this has been welcomed by the Cuban people with enormous popularity."
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, however, had a far different take on the visit, telling reporters Sunday that it was "a sad day" for America.
"Today is a sad day in American history," Cruz told the press. "For decades, leftists and Hollywood liberals have made the pilgrimage to Cuba to pay homage to Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. It’s very chic, it’s very shi-shi, for leftists to celebrate vicious communist dictators. You know, this is an issue I know firsthand. My family has experienced the ravage of Cuba. My father fought the Cuban revolution. My father was imprisoned and tortured as a teenager by Batista. And my aunt, my tia Sonia, was imprisoned and tortured by Castro’s goons. Now when President Obama is in Cuba, you know who he’s not going to meet? He’s not going to meet the dissidents who are being tortured right now by Raul and Fidel Castro, who are being silenced for daring to stand up. He’s not going to meet the Ladies in White."
Image (AP): Backdropped by a monument depicting Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, U.S. President Barack Obama listens to the U.S. national anthem during a ceremony at the Jose Marti Monument in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 21, 2016.