The United States and Cuba will seek to re-establish diplomatic relations, according to a statement released by the White House Wednesday morning. President Barack Obama also delivered an address Wednesday morning on the announcement.
“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” he said during this morning’s address.
According to a a statement from the White House:
“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.”
“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”
(Read the full statement on whitehouse.gov.)
Cuba President Raul Castro addressed his country at the same time as Obama’s address, and Castro called for the U.S. embargo of Cuba to be lifted, according to NBC News.
The announced plans include some easing of travel, but tourist travel will not be eased, according to a story by the Associated Press.
Key to the changes are:
- The reopening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which were severed in 1961.
- The re-establishment of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
- Raising remittance levels from $500 to $2,000 per quarter.
- Expanding commercial sales to Cuba, and allowing licensed U.S. travelers to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba.
- Allowing U.S. credit cards and bank cards to be used by travelers in Cuba.
- Expanding travel visas for: family visits; official government business; journalists; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
AP also reported that the change in policy was announced as Cuba released a spy who provided intelligence to the United States and an American prisoner Alan Gross, who was convicted in Cuba five years ago after installing censorship-free Internet access. The U.S. also released three convicted spies for Cuba, who were convicted in Miami in 2001.
Pope Francis reportedly encouraged the warming of relations between the two countries and the Vatican released a statement following the announcement.
“The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” the Vatican’s statement read in part.
Several Congressional critics of Cuba who are also members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Obama’s move, according to The Huffington Post.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) criticized the exchange of convicted spies for Gross.
“There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) appeared on Fox News before Obama’s televised address, according to Huffington Post.
“It’s absurd and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” the publication quoted Rubio as saying.
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