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Summary

  1. US President Barack Obama is first sitting US president to visit Cuba in 90 years
  2. Mr Obama addresses Cubans at El Gran Teatro de La Havana, with President Raul Castro in attendance
  3. Final day also sees US president meet civil society activists and attend a baseball game
  4. The White House first announced restored diplomatic ties in July 2015
  5. On Monday the two leaders sparred over human rights issues but hailed progress in diplomatic relationship

Live Reporting

By Jasmine Coleman and Ashley Gold

All times stated are UK

President Obama departs Cuba

The Obamas have boarded Air Force One, leaving Cuba for Argentina. That concludes our live coverage of Obama's Cuba visit. Thank you for sticking with us.

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Obama and the dissidents

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

President Obama with dissidents
Reuters
Mr Obama met with dissidents on his last day in Cuba

President Obama met with a prominent Cuban dissident, Berta Soler, on Tuesday, as Cuban President Raul Castro denies that the country has political prisoners.

One dissident, Elizardo Sanchez, was detained at Jose Marti International Airport on the day a group of US journalists arrived. He was released shortly afterwards. By the time the journalists arrived, things looked calm – as if nothing had happened.

Cuba experts say there’s a reason for the arrests. “There’s a string of people – the old guard – who are not really thrilled about the opening,” says Eric Olson, a director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, describing the new relationship between the US and Cuba.

“How do you control it? Some of it is done by exerting their power,” Mr Olson says, explaining that these officials try to show that they are still in control by arresting the activists.

At times, though, it seems like “shadow boxing”, a term that Mr Obama has used to describe the relationship between the two countries.

US officials tell me privately they knew beforehand that the activists would be arrested. The activists themselves had told the Americans what they planned to do – and that they would be arrested.

Still Obama administration officials the situation has improved, despite these setbacks. 

Scenes from inside President Obama's speech

Barbara Plett Usher

BBC News, Washington

Gran Teatro
BBC
The speech took place in Havana's magnificent neo-classical Gran Teatro
Roberta Jacobson
BBC
Roberta Jacobson savoring the moment: she negotiated the details of détente as the State Department’s top official for the Western Hemisphere
Faces you don’t often see: Alicia Alonso, the Grande Dame of Cuban ballet – the Gran Teatro is named after; and Miguel Diaz Canel on the far right, possible successor of Raul Castro
BBC
Faces you don’t often see: Alicia Alonso, the Grande Dame of Cuban ballet – the Gran Teatro is named after; and Miguel Diaz Canel on the far right, possible successor of Raul Castro
Standing ovation as President Obama strides onto the stage
BBC
Standing ovation as President Obama strides onto the stage
Obama in Cuba
BBC
Obama sums up his message to the Cuban people and government: the ideals of any revolution – American or Cuban – find their truest expression in democracy
A Cuban American wipes away tears as President Obama speaks about the pain of exile and the need for reconciliation
BBC
A Cuban American wipes away tears as President Obama speaks about the pain of exile and the need for reconciliation
Raul Castro getting his own applause. The Cuban President clapped when Mr Obama mentioned the December 2014 rapprochement, not when he said its full benefits couldn’t be realized without change in Cuba too
BBC
Raul Castro getting his own applause. The Cuban President clapped when Mr Obama mentioned the December 2014 rapprochement, not when he said its full benefits couldn’t be realized without change in Cuba too

Baseball game holds greater significance for Cubans

Obama meets Cuban dissidents

Berta Soler
EPA
Berta Soler, leader of Ladies in White, was among the activists who met the US president

Before the baseball game, President Obama met privately with about a dozen Cuban dissidents at the US Embassy. He noted that some of them had been detained, and praised their "extraordinary courage". Among the participants was Berta Soler, leader of Ladies in White, a protest group.

Read more: Who are Ladies in White?

They look like they're enjoying it

Prediction? 'Cuba to win, 5-0, of course!'

Minute's silence for victims of Brussels attacks

Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro stand with the crowd to pay tribute.

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Presidents take their seats

US congressman: 'Cubans yearn for freedom'

Suzanne Kianpour

BBC News, Havana

Seth Moulton
AP

Congressman Seth Moulton is in Cuba for the first time as part of a group of 30 plus US lawmakers made up of Democrats and - albeit less so - Republicans. It's a bit like a class trip - a mix of both work and play.

"The point is to get to know the Cuban people and to get to know the culture because that's what Americans are going to be doing when they come here," he told me earlier.

In between official White House visit business, like a state dinner, and congressional meetings they've managed to squeeze in some fun - shopping in Old Havana, lunch in downtown, even a rock concert.

"This is a fantastic country and you see it in the Cuban people, " he says. 

"We're seeing in the Cuban faces a yearning for freedom and democracy. There's hope this visit will bring that to them." 

But there's still a fight to be had when the lawmakers return to Capitol Hill - lifting the embargo is something the Democratic congressman feels strongly about.

"The embargo hasn't worked - we've been trying a policy for 50 years that hasn't brought a change to the people. So it's time to try something different."

Cubans react to Obama speech - 'Astonishment'

The BBC's Tom Geoghegan watched the address in a Havana cafe and has been tweeting some of the reactions from the people there.

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Obama: Time for US and Cuba to 'leave the past behind'

Here's a recap on President Obama's speech earlier in Havana. Drawing his address to a close, he said it was time for the US and Cuba to "leave the past behind".

He said that while changing relations between the US and Cuba would not be easy, his trip to Havana "renews my hope...we can make this journey as friends, as neighbours".

Obama: Time for US and Cuba to 'leave the past behind'

The view from the stands

Fans are gathering at Estadio Latinoamericano baseball stadium for the upcoming Tampa Bay Rays exhibition game against the Cuban national team.

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'Vintage Obama' in Cuba speech

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

People applaud
Reuters

The speech in the theatre was vintage Obama - it had a narrative, starting with the earlier, dark years of US-Cuban relations that date back to the 1950s. 

It also had personal elements - he said he was born in the year of the Bay of Pigs, and that afterwards the world nearly came to an end. 

Finally it had evocative language - "I know the history, but refuse to be trapped by it" - and a few jokes. And it built up to his larger point, which was his message for the Cuban people - choose democracy. It isn't perfect but it's the best system there is.

He was a powerful speaker in the theatre, and he gave a speech that was eloquent and moving. 

People stand and cheer

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

Obama waves to crowd
BBC

People in the audience stand up and cheer - both for Obama after he finished speaking and for Castro who stands up in the balcony and waves.

Raul Castro
EPA

Obama: Time to look to the future

"It's time for us to leave the past behind and look forward to the future together," says Mr Obama, wrapping up his remarks in Cuba. "My time here renews my hope and confidence in what the Cuban people will do."

Obama: It's not just about politics, it's about family

Cuba and the US do not have to be defined by being against one another, says Mr Obama. Many Cubans who left years ago still consider Cuba their real home. This is not just about politics, it's about family, he says, and the desire to heal a broken bond.

"For all of the politics, people are people and Cubans are Cubans... The reconciliation of the Cuban people is fundamental to Cuba's future."

News of Obama visit from Radio Reloj - Cuba's "Big Ben"

Anna Bressanin

BBC News, Havana

Listen to 'Radio Reloj' - Cuba state media - on Obama's visit

Radio Reloj means "Radio Watch" - and the programme is affectionately called "our Big Ben" by many Cubans. The government station shares news with a soundtrack of the continuous tick-tock of a clock.  

In this clip about Obama's visit, the journalists collect opinions from people in the province of Granma.

"The visit is a big step in the normalisation of the relationship between the two countries", say the Youth and Delegates of People's Power in the province. 

"We hope Obama will be able to see first hand the real situation in the island, which is very different from the image that capitalistic media try to represent in their manipulatory campaigns against our social project".

Cuban excitement for baseball game

Obama: I believe in democracy and freedom

"I believe every person should be equal under the law," Mr Obama tells the audience. 

"Citizens should be free to open their mind without fear, and to criticise their government, and protest freely." He said no one should be jailed for expressing their views.

He also said he believes people should be able to elect their governments in free and democratic elections, but he knows not everyone agrees.

Call to lift the embargo prompts applause

Security tight in theatre

Obama: Future success is up to the Cuban people

Obama on stage
Getty Images

Full change isn't possible without "continued change here in Cuba", says Mr Obama. Internet should be available across the island freely, and businesses should be able to thrive.

It's up to Cubans to make that happen, he says. That success depends on the free and open exchange of ideas, and being exposed to different points of view. "Youth will lose hope" if not exposed to varying viewpoints, he says, but the US will not push its political viewpoints on Cubans.

"What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people."

An 'extraordinary moment' for Cubans to witness

Will Grant

BBC News, Havana

Cubans in the audience
Getty Images

Obama tells Cuban people he came to Cuba to "bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas". It has felt like that since the process of re-engagement began in December 2014. Today, as he addresses the Cuban people live on state-run television, even more so. An extraordinary moment for Cubans to witness.

Obama: Policies of last 50 years don't make sense now

Addressing the difference between the two countries, Mr Obama highlights that Cuba has a one-party system and the US is multi-party democracy. In Cuba, the rights of the state are emphasised rather than the rights of the individual. Cuba is a socialist country, while the US has a free market.

Despite these differences, the time is now to open up relations, the US president said. Why? Because the policies of the last 50 years don't make sense in the 21st century, he said.

"We should not fear change, we should embrace it."

Obama: Cuba and US are like estranged brothers

President Obama gives speech
BBC

Focusing on the relationship between Cuba and the US, Mr Obama said: "The differences between our governments are real and important... I'm sure President Castro would say the same thing.

"But we need to recognise how much we share." 

He said the US and Cuba were like "two brothers that have been estranged for many years."

Legendary ballerina among the guests

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

On his way into the theatre, President Obama greeted legendary ballerina Alicia Alonso, 93. Once inside the auditorium, she stood on a balcony and bowed to the crowd, who applauded enthusiastically. El Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso is named in her honour.

Alicia Alonso
BBC

Obama on Brussels attacks: We can and will fight terrorism

The US president has started his speech in Havana by addressing the latest attacks in Brussels.  

"We must stand together in fighting against the scourge of terrorism," he said.

"We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of those around the world." 

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Watch Obama speech live

President Obama arrives at El Gran Teatro de La Havana
BBC

President Obama has arrived at the theatre and will be addressing the audience shortly. You can watch the speech live here.

In the audience - 'It's an exclamation point to end of Cold War'

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

Congressman Gregory Meeks
BBC

Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York has been coming to Cuba since 1999. He took several pictures of the stage where President Obama will speak this morning. Holding his camera, he described it as a historic moment. "It's an exclamation point to the end of the Cold War," he says.

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Ted Cruz: Obama shouldn't be in Cuba

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz implies President Obama should be focusing his diplomatic efforts elsewhere.

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Obama: Castro 'wants change'

Presidents Castro and Obama
Reuters

In an interview on Monday evening with American broadcaster ABC, Mr Obama said he believed President Castro "truly wants change" but added, "I do not believe that President Castro wants to upend the Union Party or the system they have".

Mr Obama also said he had pressed the Cuban president to allow more dissent and protests.

"One of the things I said to President Castro, and I truly believe this, is that if they were less fearful of dissent, then not only might they be able to improve government but I suspect that they could enhance their legitimacy in the eyes of the Cuban people," he said.

"Better to listen, hear them out. And he may discover that in fact they have something to teach him."

Scenes from Cuba: A British corner in Havana

Tom Geoghegan

BBC News, Havana

Luis sits next to John Lennon statue
BBC

The John Lennon statue in the neighbourhood of Vedada has a constant stream of tourists who arrive and sit on the bench next to the Beatles singer to be snapped.

But retired car painter Luis is there every other day - his job is to put a pair of glasses on Lennon's nose, because they were stolen a few years ago. A lady has the same job on the other days of the week.

The 68-year-old says he loved Lennon and Elvis Presley and his favourite song is Yesterday by The Beatles.

The band's songs were banned for decades for their "ideological diversionism" until Fidel Castro had a change of heart, embraced Lennon as a revolutionary and unveiled the statue in 2000. 

Round the corner from John Lennon Park is a community centre called The Yellow Submarine.

A community centre called The Yellow Submarine.
BBC

In the audience - 'I'm happy about closer ties'

In the audience - 'It's a new world' for Cuba

Tara McKelvey

BBC News, Havana

Josue Benavides
BBC

Josue Benavides, a physics student at the University of Havana, is one of the lucky ones with a ticket for President Obama's speech. 

"It's very important," he says about the speech. "It's a new world - a new political reality."

The stage is set

The stage is set with the flags of Cuba and America for U.S. President Barack Obama"s remarks at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso in the Old Havana city center March 22, 2016 in Havana, Cuba
Getty Images

The Cuban and US flags are displayed as people take their seats for Mr Obama's speech at the El Gran Teatro de La Havana, an iconic theatre complex in Cuban's capital.