US President Barack Obama says “change is going to happen” in Cuba in comments broadcast shortly before talks today in Havana with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.

“Change is going to happen here and I think that Raul Castro understands that,” Obama said in an interview with US broadcaster ABC News, after he and his family arrived in Cuba yesterday.

Obama acknowledged, however, that it was not going to occur “overnight”.

The three-day trip, the first by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Castro in December 2014, ending an estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

“It’s a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people,” Obama told staff at the newly reopened U.S. Embassy who were gathered at a hotel, his first stop after arriving in the afternoon.

Yesterday, dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested during a protest before Mr. Obama’s arrival. They were held briefly before being released.

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