Cuba rules out political changes with Obama’s visit

The Cuban government ruled out on Thursday making any political changes or economic transformations on the island as a condition for the full restoration of relations with the U.S. just days before the visit of President, Barack Obama, to Havana.

In a press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the U.S. president will arrive in the island on Sunday and will be greeted with respect despite the deep ideological, political and economic differences between the two countries.

Soundbite (Spanish): Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s foreign minister
“Cuba will continue building a new relationship with the government of the U.S., in the exercise of its sovereignty and while being committed to ideals of social justice and solidarity. Our relationship with the U.S. will in no way involve making internal changes in Cuba, which are and will remain the exclusive sovereignty of our people”

Rodriguez said Washington’s economic blockade remains intact despite new measures approved by the White House this week that loosen some aspects of the embargo.

Soundbite (Spanish): Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s foreign minister
“The visit of President Obama will be an important opportunity to identify new steps that could occur in the coming months as a contribution to the process of improving relations, on the basis of respect and equality, for the benefit of both countries and their people.”

He also announced that Havana will eliminate a 10 percent tax on the exchange of U.S. dollars at banks and money-changers in Cuba making it easier and cheaper for Americans to spend time in Cuba.

He said this is possible following Washington’s decision to allow the use of that currency in Cuba’s international financial transactions.

Obama will arrive in Cuba on March 20 for a three-day visit where he will meet with President Raul Castro, deliver a public speech to the Cuban people and attend a baseball game between a team from the island and the Tampa Bay Rays, among other activities.

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