WASHINGTON – Sending direct mail to Cuba resumes this week for the first time in 50 years.
President Barack Obama marked the historic milestone by sending a letter Wednesday to a 76-year-old woman in Cuba who had written him a letter.
The Feb. 18 letter from Ileana Yarza said:
I heard last night by telesur -- not the Cuban broadcast news -- that you will visit Havana in March. I could not be happier to hear this.
An American president finally taking this so much needed step, the second best one after your open admittance that the over half a century cruel embargo on this lovely, enduring and resilient little island just did not work. We Cubans believe it's a black page on American history and geopolitics. Very sorry to say this...
Dear President Obama: I've followed your political career since you were running for office the first time. Then I drank to your victory at/with the CNBC Havana office that glorious night. I also celebrated your second term election with friends at home. I wish there would be a third, perhaps one day...
I've written you many times introducing myself. Also I have invited you to a cup of Cuban coffee at my place in Vedado, if and when you would finally come.
Please, please, do visit me. Give this 76 year old Cuban lady the gift of meeting you personally. 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.
Please understand I very much look forward to it.
I would also love for you to come with your wonderful, lovely wife.
God bless you son, also bless your family.
Ileana R. Yarza
Obama responded to Yarza by writing:
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.
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.
Obama's letter is expected to reach the island before his visit on Sunday, when he will become the first U.S. president to visit the island in nearly 90 years.
Since the president announced his plan to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, non-stop flights between the two countries have been restored, the U.S. government has helped facilitate more commercial enterprise, and the government has allowed U.S. dollars to be used in more financial transactions with Cuba.
According to a White House report, the types of mail that people in the U.S. can send to Cuba include First-Class Mail International items, First-Class Package International Service items, Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.