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Obama visit to Cuba not out of the question

A possible trip by President Barack Obama to the communist island just miles off its shores is not out of the question, the White House said Wednesday.

“The president did hint that there will be senior government officials who will carry out the kind of work that’s indicative of two nations that are seeking to normalize their relations,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “So, I certainly wouldn’t rule out a presidential visit. But I don’t have anything to announce at this point.”

The comments, which just as recently as yesterday would have been seen as outlandish, come as the U.S. and Cuba announced that they would work to normalize diplomatic relations. The countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 1961.

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that he looks forward “to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba.”

The U.S. is poised to open an embassy in Havana in the next few months, as well as ease some travel and economic restrictions. Tourist travel to the island nation, however, will still be restricted.

Asked about congressional threats to refuse funding to set up an embassy in Cuba, Earnest said that he wasn’t sure if any further money would be required as an Interest Section already exists in Cuba. But he added that the administration will pursue congressional legislation to lift remaining restrictions. The Interest Section in Cuba represents U.S interests on the island but is located in the Swiss embassy and is staffed by American personnel.

“We do believe that the Congress should take the necessary action to remove those restrictions as well, again, to facilitate the kind of openness and engagement that we believe will lead to greater progress in terms of advancing American national security priorities,” he said.

The U.S. has imposed rigid trade embargoes on Cuba since the early 1960s and cut off diplomatic ties in 1961.

The infamous failed Bay of Pigs invasion attempt followed when a group of Cuban exiles, with help from the CIA, tried unsuccessfully to overthrow long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

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