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Despite criticism from conservatives, President Barack Obama defended his upcoming visit to Cuba on Saturday.

“I’m focused on the future, and I’m confident that my visit will advance the goals that guide us —promoting American interests and values and a better future for the Cuban people, a future of more freedom and more opportunity,” the president said.

“My visit will be an opportunity to keep moving forward,” he added. “I’ll meet with President Castro to discuss how we can continue normalizing relations, including making it easier to trade and easier for Cubans to access the Internet and start their own businesses.”

Obama and Castro to come face to face as US and Cuba restore relations

The visit, which was announced on Thursday, will make Obama the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 90 years. It is part of his ongoing efforts toward normalizing relations with Cuba, and he has vowed to “speak candidly about our serious differences with the Cuban government, including on democracy and human rights.”

“I’ve always said that change won’t come to Cuba overnight. But as Cuba opens up, it will mean more opportunity and resources for ordinary Cubans. And we’re starting to see some progress,” Obama said.

The president’s upcoming visit has been criticized by the GOP, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, sons of Cuban immigrants.

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