Cuba Says Obama 'Welcome' but Shouldn't Expect much


Cuba's state newspaper said Wednesday U.S. President Barack Obama will be warmly welcomed when he makes a historic visit later this month but warned him not to expect political concessions.

"The U.S. leader will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and its people with the hospitality that distinguishes them and will be treated with all consideration and respect," official daily Granma said in an editorial.

But it hastened to add: "No one can harbor the slightest doubt about Cuba's unconditional adherence to its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals."

Obama will visit the island March 21 and 22 -- the first visit by a U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and a symbolically charged capstone to the rapprochement that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced in December 2014.

Before announcing the visit, Obama had insisted he would only travel to Cuba if the communist government made progress on reforms in areas such as human rights.

But Granma warned him not to be a pushy guest, quoting Castro himself as saying: "We will not allow ourselves to be pressured on our internal affairs. We have won this sovereign right with great sacrifices."

The editorial reiterated the Castro government's demands for the United States to return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, end its more than 50-year-old embargo on Cuba and fully normalize ties in areas such as immigration.

Obama's Republican opponents accuse him of betraying the cause of human rights in Cuba by engaging with the Castro regime.

In a bid to fend off such criticism, the White House has announced Obama will meet with anti-regime dissidents in Havana, though it has not given any details beyond insisting that the Cuban government will not be allowed to hand-pick them.

Since taking over nearly a decade ago from his older brother Fidel, the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution, Raul Castro has slowly opened up the Cuban economy. But the political system is still completely dominated by the regime, and dissidents regularly face crack-downs and arrest.