WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama took advantage of this week’s restoration of direct mail service between the U.S. and Cuba to answer a letter from a Cuban woman inviting him to visit her during his trip to the island next week.
Obama, who is set to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in almost 90 years, responded to Ileana Yarza, 76, ahead of his March 20-22 journey.
Yarza, who has written to Obama several times since he took office in 2009, penned her latest missive to the president on Feb. 18.
“I think there are not many Cubans so eager as I to meet you in person not as an important American personality but as a charming president whose open smile wins hearts,” she wrote.
Yarza also invited the U.S. president “to a cup of Cuban coffee at my place in Vedado,” a Havana neighborhood.
“Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your support over the years, and I hope this note – which will reach you by way of the first direct mail flight between the United States and Cuba in over 50 years – serves as a reminder of a bright new chapter in the relationship between our two nations,” Obama said.
“I am looking forward to visiting Havana to foster this relationship and highlight our shared values – and, hopefully, I will have time to enjoy a cup of Cuban coffee,” he added.
For nearly five decades, mail between Cuba and the United States was routed through third countries.
Last December, months after the restoration of bilateral diplomatic relations, Washington and Havana agree to restore direct postal links.