HAVANA — Cuba is open to all of U.S. President Barack Obama's moves to improve relations and strengthen private enterprise and civil society on the island, the country's head of North American affairs said Monday.
In Cuba's first detailed public response to Obama's historic announcement last week, Josefina Vidal told The Associated Press that Cuba welcomes "the entire package" offered by Obama. That includes U.S. equipment to improve the Cuban internet and U.S. exports to Cuba's new class of private business owners.
"Our president has said we welcome President Obama's decision to introduce the most significant changes in relations with Cuba in 54 years," Josefina Vidal said Monday. "That includes the entire package."
Cuba has historically imposed heavy regulations on the internet and private business as it has blamed the U.S. embargo for many of the problems of the island's stagnant economy.
Vidal said that the U.S. has been to blame for Cuba's economic problems, which include crumbling infrastructure, low levels of foreign investment and rates of internet access that are among the lowest in the world, and the opening is an opportunity to show what the country could do unshackled.
"Look back. When have you seen a negative response to the American government removing any type of restriction?" Vidal said. "What we say is, get rid of the excuse and put us to the test!
"We don't have any reason to reject anything that comes from the United States that's positive, and that are measures taken to loosen the blockade," she continued.
She said Cuba was waiting, however, to see exactly how the Obama administration will implement the changes.
Obama's announcement included a very general list of reforms and left a series of open questions about how far his government could go to create deeper economic ties with Cuba. The departments of Commerce and Treasury are expected to begin publishing the details of the new measures in coming weeks, changes that will include relaxation of the stringent rules governing American travel to Cuba.
Vidal said Cuba would only know how it would manage its end of the new relationship once the American government plan was clearer.
"We have to see how we are going to implement things," she said.
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