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President Obama to visit Cuba in coming weeks

Last Updated Feb 18, 2016 9:11 AM EST

President Obama will travel to Cuba in coming weeks, a senior administration official confirmed to CBS News Wednesday night.

The administration will announce the president's upcoming trip to Latin America, including Cuba, on Thursday, the official said.

No sitting U.S. president has visited Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

More than a year after moving to normalize relations with Cuba, the White House has concluded conditions are now right for Mr. Obama to visit the island.

"By going to Cuba while he is still in office, Mr. Obama is showing Havana that he will continue to make enough progress that it will be difficult for the next president to change course from restoring ties with Cuba -- and he is proving to Congress that the president still has a lot of executive authority to change foreign policy," CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pam Falk said.

Ahead of the White House announcement, President Obama took to Twitter to speak about the visit:

The announcement comes only two days after the U.S. and Cuba signed an agreement restoring commercial air traffic between their two countries for the first time in 50 years.

ABC News first reported the president's upcoming trip, Wednesday evening.

In December 2014, the president told Yahoo News that if he "with confidence can say that we're seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I'd love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress."

The president has used his executive powers to restore many aspects of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and sent Secretary of State John Kerry to the ceremony reopening the U.S. embassy in Havana.

But Congress still holds the keys to a full restoration of ties: Only lawmakers can lift the longstanding U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. There is still deep opposition to restoring relations with Cuba, especially among the several Cuban-American members of the House and Senate and several of the Republican presidential candidates.

In the president's final State of the Union address last month, he called on Congress to lift the embargo. "You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over," Mr. Obama said.

As details of the president's upcoming trip trickled out Wednesday night, several GOP presidential candidates reacted to the news. At CNN's Republican town hall in South Carolina, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both said that they wouldn't travel to the Communist country until it's free and no longer ruled by the Castro family.

CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.