"The day that the president of the United States decides to visit
Cuba, he will be welcome," Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs
in the Cuban foreign ministry, told reporters.
"Regarding what I just said, I'd like to recall that Cuba has always
said ... it is not going to negotiate matters that are inherent to
its internal system in exchange for an improvement in or the
normalization of relations with the United States," Vidal said.
Obama told Yahoo News in an interview about the Dec. 17 anniversary
that he hopes to visit Cuba in 2016 but only if enough progress has
been made in bilateral relations, he is able to meet with political
dissidents, and if he can possibly "nudge the Cuban government in a
It was a year ago that Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shocked
the world by announcing the former adversaries would normalize
relations. By July they had agreed to restore diplomatic ties after
a 54-year break.
Obama has about 400 days left in office before handing over to the
next president, potentially a Republican hostile to his new Cuba
Castro has 800 days left before stepping down and handing over power
to a new Communist leader. Both have some urgency to cement the new
relationship while advancing their strategic interests.
playing a game of chess and we have to make a certain number of
moves before the time is up," said Rafael Hernandez, a Cuban
political analyst. "We have to make enough moves so that if there is
an unfavorable change in the U.S.
administration, we will be too far along to turn back."
[to top of second column]
In the year since detente, more Americans are visiting Cuba, and
more Cubans are trying to reach America, concerned that preferential
treatment for Cubans migrants may end. Under Cold War-era laws,
Cubans are welcomed without a visa and given residency with relative
Since detente, Cuban overland arrivals to the United States have
soared nearly 80 percent while the number arriving by sea has more
Since Obama eased restrictions on travel, U.S. visits to Cuba have
climbed more than 70 percent, with 138,000 arrivals in the first 11
months of 2015.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, additional reporting by Jaime Hamre;
Editing by Ken Wills)
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