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  Cuban ‘thrilled’ over Barack Obama’s response

Cuban ‘thrilled’ over Barack Obama’s response

Published : Mar 19, 2016, 4:38 am IST
Updated : Mar 19, 2016, 4:38 am IST

A 76-year-old Cuban woman who invited President Barack Obama to her Havana home received a response from the US leader on Thursday in one of the first letters to travel directly to Cuba in decades.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (Photo: PTI/File)
 Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (Photo: PTI/File)

A 76-year-old Cuban woman who invited President Barack Obama to her Havana home received a response from the US leader on Thursday in one of the first letters to travel directly to Cuba in decades.

Ileana Yarza wrote to Mr Obama on February 18 saying “there are not many Cubans so eager as I to meet you in person” and asked him to have a strong cup of Cuban coffee with her sometime. Mr Obama wrote back that “hopefully, I will have time to enjoy a cup of Cuban coffee” when he visits Havana on Sunday.

His letter flew to Cuba on Wednesday on the first direct mail flight since shortly after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Ms Yarza told the Associated Press. The White House published the letter on Thursday but Yarza said she was waiting to open it until relatives arrived to watch.

She said she began writing to Mr Obama during his first presidential campaign and had written him four or five times since then, all demanding the lifting of the US trade embargo on Cuba.

She said she was “charmed” by Mr Obama’s “gentlemanliness”, adding, “If I had the opportunity to see him I would say ‘I admire you, I respect you, and I think you’ve done something very important.”.

Although both sides are embracing Mr Obama’s visit, the first acting US President to visit Cuba, as an opportunity to bury the hatchet, foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez made clear that Cuba will not listen to Washington’s often repeated demands for more democracy and a freer economy.

“In our relations with the United States, the carrying out of internal changes in Cuba are absolutely off the negotiating table,” Bruno Rodriguez said on Thursday in televised remarks three days before Obama arrives.

“No one can pretend that Cuba should renounce a single principle in order to advance the normalization of relations between both countries,” the minister said.

Rodriguez said there remain “major differences” between Cuba and the United States in areas of “political systems, democracy, human rights, the application and interpretation of international law.”