Mugabe is a 93-year-old former teacher who embraced Marxism and came to power with other revolutionaries in 1980. Until then, the majority-black nation was known as Rhodesia, and whites ruled.
Mugabe, who’d spent years in prison because of his activism, was elected prime minister in 1980 and became president seven years later.
In March 2003, amid violence, food shortages and allegations of election-rigging in Zimbabwe, President George W. Bush imposed economic sanctions targeting Mugabe and 76 other officials.
Obama extended the sanctions in 2009 and again in January, days before leaving office. Today, the sanctions target Mugabe and 84 others, plus 56 entities, including farms, mining companies and a steel company.
“I’m heartbroken when I see what’s happened in Zimbabwe,” Obama said at a forum in August 2010. “I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter and — I’m just going to be very blunt — I do not see him serving his people well. And the abuses — the human rights abuses, the violence that’s been perpetrated against opposition leaders — I think is terrible.”