Obama swaps jokes before visit

Updated: 2016-03-21 02:20


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Obama swaps jokes before visit

Getting ready

Visitors from California have their pictures taken next to images of Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama in Havana on Saturday. The headline on the poster reads, "Welcome to Cuba." ENRIQUE DE LA OSA / REUTERS

On the eve of his visit to Cuba, US President Barack Obama cracked jokes on Saturday with the country's most popular comedian, in a surprise exchange.

In the video sketch released on the Facebook page of the US embassy in Havana, comedian Panfilo acted out calling the White House and asking to speak to Obama.

"This is President Obama."

"Oh my God, I'm talking with Obama," the star-struck comedian says.

"Yes, the real Obama. Who's this?" the president deadpans.

"I'm Panfilo from Cuba."

"The real Panfilo — from the TV show?"

"From the TV show. He knows me," Panfilo says.

"No way, how are you?" the president replies in Spanish this time, using Cuban slang.

"I'm so glad you'll come to visit," Panfilo says, advising the president not to bring heavy luggage "or you'll get stuck at the airport".

Panfilo is a character embodied by the actor Luis Silva, whose weekly program on Cubavision is unusually breezy and often bitingly humorous by the standards of Cuban airwaves.

The skit was part of the buildup to the first visit by a US president to Cuba in 88 years and a landmark step in ending a tense standoff between the neighbors that dates to the overthrow of a US-backed government by Fidel Castro in 1959.

Reversing generations of US attempts to cut Cuba off from the outside world, Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters were due to arrive in Havana on Sunday for a three-day trip.

Obama, seeking to leave a historic foreign policy mark in his final year in office, was due to see Havana old town late on Sunday.

He is scheduled to hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro on Monday, and attend a baseball game before leaving on Tuesday.