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With presidents Obama, Castro watching, Rays beat Cuban team

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In Cuba, Obama briefed on Brussels attacks

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the U.S.-led coalition will continue hitting Islamic State militants after attacks in Belgium that killed at least 30 people. “You can’t be stepping out of that batter’s box as often as they used to”. “As normalization occurs, that excuse is taken away”, Obama said.

The diamond detente will help “open the door to the possibility that Cuban baseball players can play” in the majors, he said. Among them: Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball great Jackie Robinson, who played in Havana before breaking baseball’s color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The president’s full day of events in Cuba marked the first time a sitting US president had visited the island nation since Calvin Coolidge arrived by boat 88 years ago.

However, Obama said that the United States “will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy”.

The president appeared to deliberately use neutral terms to describe the Cuban state: “a one-party system” and “a socialist economic model” that “has emphasized the role and rights of the state”.

Castro also said that Washington needs to return sovereignty over Guantanamo, a corner of Cuba under United States control and the location for a controversial U.S. military prison housing foreigners allegedly involved in terrorism.

“I think Obama touched the soul of the Cubans”, said dockyard worker Lazaro Bosch, 62.

He said in the interview that the leader of the Cuban revolution is “in very good health” and spends his time doing things that for a long time he was unable to do, such as “contributing what he knows, helping people, studying”.

Obama settled in just behind home plate with Cuban President Raúl Castro on one side, and his family – first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and mother-in-law Marian Robinson – on the other. “And he may discover that in fact they have something to teach him”.

They chatted in relaxed fashion, any awkwardness or tension apparently gone from the previous day’s news conference that saw Castro hit with tough questions from USA reporters. But it was also part of Obama’s broader strategy for people-to-people engagement on the formerly isolated island. Obama is joined by a massive US delegation during his visit; 39 members of Congress including five Republicans will be following his movements.

Mr. Obama has a busy schedule Tuesday in Havana, where he’s slated to give a speech to the Cuban people, meet with dissidents and attend a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.

“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas”, Obama said to cheers.

“What you’re gonna end up seeing is a freer and more prosperous Cuba”, he said.

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