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By PETER BAKER | DEC. 17, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with
Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to
“cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.
The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap
negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and
President Raúl Castro. The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just
90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge
up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis.
“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will
begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement
from the White House. The deal, he added, will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas”
and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
In doing so, Mr. Obama ventured into diplomatic territory where the last 10 presidents refused to go, and
Republicans, along with a senior Democrat, quickly characterized the rapprochement with the Castro family
as appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship. Republican lawmakers who will take control of
the Senate as well as the House next month made clear they would resist lifting the 54-year-old trade
Obama on Change to U.S.-Cuba Relations
The president outlined the steps the United States would take to “end an outdated approach” and begin to
normalize relations with Cuba.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more
commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants. “All this is going to do is
give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these
changes to perpetuate itself in power.”
For good or ill, the move represented a dramatic turning point in relations with an island that for generations
has captivated and vexed its giant northern neighbor. From the 18th century, when successive presidents
coveted it, Cuba loomed large in the American imagination long before Fidel Castro stormed from the
mountains and seized power in 1959.
Mr. Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union made Cuba a geopolitical flash point in a global struggle of
ideology and power. President Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed the first trade embargo in 1960 and broke off
diplomatic relations in January 1961, just weeks before leaving office and seven months before Mr. Obama
was born. Under President John F. Kennedy, the failed Bay of Pigs operation aimed at toppling Mr. Castro
in April 1961 and the 13-day showdown over Soviet missiles installed in Cuba the following year cemented
its status as a ground zero in the Cold War.
But the relationship remained frozen in time long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the
Soviet Union, a thorn in the side of multiple presidents who waited for Mr. Castro’s demise and experienced
false hope when he passed power to his brother, Raúl. Even as the United States built relations with
Communist nations like China and Vietnam, Cuba remained one of just a few nations, along with Iran and
North Korea, that had no formal ties with Washington.
Mr. Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with Cuba and relaxed some travel
restrictions in 2011. But further moves remained untenable as long as Cuba held Alan P. Gross, an American
government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for trying to deliver
satellite telephone equipment capable of cloaking connections to the Internet.


“We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations. “This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved. Obama and Mr. the U. where many younger children of exiles are open to change. While eating a corned beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard during the flight. home for Hanukkah. but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.” Mr. This is a game-changer.” President Obama discussed the release of the contractor.” he said. according to a New York Times poll conducted in October. Obama’s move had the support of the Catholic Church.” while former Gov. must cease. two other Republican potential candidates for president joined in the criticism. very bad deal. which has ties with Havana. Mr. In addition to Mr. the first direct substantive contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years. accompanied by his wife. including Speaker John A. a Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years. Obama’s move toward normalizing relations with Cuba. taking to the airwaves with no introduction and announcing that he had spoken by telephone with Mr.” a distinction critics found unpersuasive. in America with his family.” Mr. Castro by telephone on Tuesday to seal the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes.” A leading Democrat agreed. “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems. who conducted nine meetings with Cuban counterparts starting in June 2013. But leading Republicans. On Wednesday morning.” “Five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerence inhibits better judgment. Gross received a call from Mr. Castro spoke simultaneously on Cuban television. Obama resolved to make Cuba a priority for his second term and authorized secret negotiations led by two aides. Mr. Mr. Gross. that the Castro brothers suddenly will unclench their fists. “Two wrongs never make a right. “It is a fallacy that Cuba will reform just because the American president believes that if he extends his hand in peace.” 2 . Benjamin J. adding that his own ordeal and the injustice with which Cuban people had been treated were “a consequence of two governments’ mutually belligerent policies. while Cuba will allow more Internet access and release 53 Cubans identified as political prisoners by the United States. “He’s back where he belongs. did not. Rubio. Obama. commercial and financial blockade. most of them in Canada. Mr. Mr. Boehner and the incoming Senate majority leader. Gross said he supported Mr. which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country. the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it. For its part. he added. which I fully support. Alan P.After winning re-election. At a news conference in Washington. Castro mention the reopening of diplomatic relations. which would require an act of Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell. Although the embargo will remain in place. Gross was not technically part of the swap. Gross walked out of a Cuban prison and boarded an American military plane that flew him to Washington. Mr. Rhodes and Ricardo Zúñiga. Mr.S. travel and banking. as well as the release of an intelligence agent held for nearly 20 years. the United States sent back three imprisoned Cuban spies who were caught in 1998 and had become a cause célèbre for the Havana government. Judy. Human Rights Watch and major agricultural interests. Castro and had the Vatican host a meeting in October to finalize the terms of the deal. officials said. Obama spoke with Mr. “The economic. “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.” he said. Obama said later.” But. The United States will ease restrictions on remittances. Obama on Tuesday.” he declared. Chamber of Commerce. Nearly six in 10 Americans support re-establishing relations with Cuba. They were swapped for Rolando Sarraff Trujillo. according to a senior American official. Pope Francis encouraged the talks with letters to Mr. Jeb Bush of Florida said it “undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba. Mr.” Only afterward did Mr. emphasizing the release of the three Cubans. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called it a “very. Obama is gambling that restoring ties with Cuba may no longer be politically unthinkable with the generational shift among Cuban-Americans. who had been held in Cuba for five years.

Mr. currently led by a diplomat. and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker may lead a commercial mission. Mr. who will become the chargé d’affaires pending the nomination and confirmation of an ambassador. including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products. Obama’s decision will ease travel restrictions for family visits. The same errors appeared in some editions in related articles. Jeffrey DeLaurentis. 3 . and he is Mr. a former Cuban intelligence agent imprisoned in Cuba on espionage charges since 1995. and referred incorrectly to him. Obama said. one about the announcement of the agreement — which also misspelled his surname as Sarras — and another about the last members of a Cuban spy ring who were released. Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.” Mr. Trujillo.” Correction: December 19. Obama will send an assistant secretary of state to Havana next month to talk about migration.” he said. Obama will also allow greater banking ties. “The question is how we uphold that commitment. and the president announced that he would attend a regional Summit of the Americas next spring that Mr.said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law. Mr.” He added that he shared the commitment to freedom for Cuba. Sarraff. 2014 An article on Thursday about the secret negotiations for a prisoner swap that led to the reconciliation agreement between the United States and Cuba misspelled. “It’s time for a new approach. the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a Cuban-American. and professional. public performances. Mr. the surname of one of the men freed. He is Rolando Sarraff Trujillo. making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba. there is a bare-bones facility called an interests section that can be upgraded. While the United States has no embassy in Havana. “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. among other things. not Sarraf. not Mr. in some editions. and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba. Castro is also to attend. “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. educational and religious activities.

S. which President John F. a status first assigned in 1982 in light of Fidel Castro's training of rebels in 4 . U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS Authors: Danielle Renwick. Raúl Castro wanted to secure the release of the Cuban Five. Another contentious issue between the two countries was Cuba's designation by the U.S. which state that the embargo may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castros. In 1959. The change in the countries' relations. and gave rise to President Obama's March 2016 visit to Cuba.S. Fidel Castro and a group of revolutionaries seized power in Havana. and hiked taxes on American imports. Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor. The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. 2015. relations more broadly in Latin America.S. medical supplies and agricultural products to the island. a botched CIA-backed attempt to topple the government. policy toward Cuba. which requires congressional approval to be rescinded. Cuban authorities alleged he was attempting to destabilize the Cuban regime and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison.S. Cuban intelligence officers arrested in Miami in 1998 and convicted in 2001. During his first term. 2016 Introduction On April 11. the United States also secretly agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey. who had become national heroes in Cuba. and Cuban head of state since the two countries severed their ties in 1961. the first by a sitting president in over eighty-five years.-Cuba relationship has its roots in the Cold War. President Barack Obama came into office seeking greater engagement with Cuba.U.S.) Some adjustments have been made to the trade embargo to allow for the export of some U. economic and diplomatic isolation became the major prongs of U. Historical Background The tumultuous U. prompted some experts to point to better prospects for Cuba’s economy and U. fueled Cuban mistrust and nationalism.S. citizens to send remittances to non–family members in Cuba and to travel there under license for educational or religious purposes.S. The meeting came four months after the presidents announced their countries would restore diplomatic relations. But the U.126 trillion.S.S. Kennedy expanded into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions. and in 2009 reversed some of the restrictions on remittances and travel set by his predecessor. subcontractor in December 2015.S. At the same time. is unlikely to be lifted any time soon. In 1961 the United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and began pursuing covert operations to overthrow the Castro regime. But the Cuban government estimates that more than fifty years of stringent trade restrictions has amounted to a loss of $1. Bush. The United States discovered those plans in October of 1962. Economics. marking the first meeting between a U. trade embargo. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.S. administrations have maintained a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Cuba. George W. Gross had traveled to the country to deliver communications equipment and arrange Internet access for its Jewish community. Obstacles to U.S. a U.-owned properties.S.-Cuba Diplomacy U. setting off a fourteen-day standoff. nationalized U. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with an agreement that the sites would be dismantled if the United States pledged not to invade Cuba. the United States responded with escalating economic retaliation.S. initially marked by a prisoner swap and Havana's release of a jailed U. Both countries appeared open to further engagement (PDF) until Cuban authorities arrested Alan Gross. telecommunications companies to provide more cellular and satellite service in Cuba and allowed U. Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro shook hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. and Kennedy demanded the destruction of the missile sites. (Raúl has said he will leave office in 2018. successive U. Updated: March 24. leading to a secret agreement allowing the Soviet Union to build a missile base on the island. in Havana in 2009. Since the 1960s. Following the events of 1961–62. ships imposed a naval quarantine around the island. Obama also permitted U.S. Despite misgivings about Castro's communist political ideology. Washington instituted a ban on nearly all exports to Cuba. However. overthrowing Fulgencio Batista. Washington strengthened the embargo with the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and 1996 Helms-Burton Act (PDF). After slashing Cuban sugar imports. the United States recognized his government. as Castro's regime increased trade with the Soviet Union. This continued even after the Soviet Union's collapse.

Obama arrived in Havana for the first visit by a sitting U.S. which makes up about 5 percent of Florida's population. The CubanAmerican community in southern Florida traditionally influenced U. Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced that the United States and Cuba would restore full diplomatic ties for the first time in more than fifty years.S. broadcast live with Raúl Castro sitting in the audience. economic sanctions. The United States eased trade and travel restrictions a second time in January 2016. domestic politics in the United States long made a U. travelers to visit Cuba for specific purposes without first obtaining a government license. credit and debit cards. Castro announced in 1992 that Cuba would no longer support insurgents abroad. As of early 2016. Gross was also released that morning on humanitarian grounds." The U. The United States and Cuba reopened their embassies in each other's capitals on July 20.S.S. and again in March 2016 ahead of Obama's visit. "Even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow. Human rights in Cuba continue to be a concern for U. In a keynote address. president also made a point of meeting with political dissidents. Cuba also agreed to release fifty-three prisoners that the United States had classified as political dissidents.S. The agreement came after eighteen months of secret talks between U. Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list was a major obstacle to talks about restoring diplomatic relations following the 2014 rapprochement.  Banks to facilitate authorized transactions. Human Rights Watch said Cuba "continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights" through detentions. U. The new rules also chipped away at economic sanctions by allowing.S. life. 2016. the United States agreed to further ease restrictions on remittances.S. policymakers.S. travel.S. In May 2015. the White House had not yet named an ambassador to Cuba. president since Calvin Coolidge visited the island in 1928. In addition to the prisoner releases. and travel insurance for individuals living in or visiting Cuba. insurance companies to cover health. U. However. and banking (see accompanying graphic). Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.Central America. In 2015. In a 2014 report. recent trends suggest that may change: Obama won the Cuban-American vote in Florida in the 2012 elections. the Cuban government carried out more than 8. Beginning in January 2015. saying. and experts say 5 . and forced exile.S. and both Republicans and Democrats have feared alienating a strong voting bloc in an important swing state in presidential elections. Obama reiterated his call to lift the embargo.S.S. officials confirmed in January 2015 that all fiftythree were released. the United States enacted new travel and trade regulations allowing U. Yet Congress maintains control over U. The Cuban exile community in the Miami area. On March 20.-Cuba détente politically risky. But he also pressed for reforms to open Cuba's political system." writes Arturo Lopez-Levy in Foreign Policy. Cuba was removed from the list. according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).S. and Cuban officials that were encouraged and brokered by Pope Francis. 2015. 2014.-Cuba Rapprochement On December 17. effectively restoring full diplomatic ties. Airlines were also permitted to provide regular commercial service to the country.S. and the State Department's annual report for 2013 stated there was no evidence that the country provided training or weapons to terrorist groups.  U. among other things:  Travelers to use U. and to spend money there. travel restrictions.600 detentions of political activists.S. who had been imprisoned in Havana for nearly twenty years. companies to invest in some small businesses. Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba. has been "a pillar of Republican support in presidential elections since 1980. and  Shipment of building materials to private Cuban companies. policy toward Cuba. The announcement followed a prisoner swap: The three still-jailed members of the Cuban Five (one had been released in 2011 and another earlier in 2014) were released in exchange for a U. U.  U. beatings. intelligence asset.

and economic hardship amid the global economic downturn. Cuba's private sector has swelled as a direct result of these reforms. Facing an aging population.S. In 2014. the UN General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U. "Cuba is undertaking a process of economic reforms that will. Raúl Castro has spoken of the need to reform Cuba's economic system. and  Expanding access to consumer goods. firm Bendixen & Amandi International found that 97 percent of Cubans favor the restoration of ties. A Washington Post–ABC News poll found 74 percent of respondents were in favor of an end to the travel ban. welcomed the announcement. I hope. A Pew Research poll found 63 percent of Americans supported resuming diplomatic relations. arguing it would do little to improve human rights on the island.S. signaling a generational shift in attitudes toward the island. lead to political reforms.S. Global support for the normalization of U.-Cuba announcement in December 2014 found that a majority of Americans supported reestablishing diplomatic ties. Domestic Reform in Cuba Since taking office in 2008.–Cuba Ties Regional powers and many rights groups have praised the normalization of U. including ownership of certain consumer goods and travel outside the country.S. signaling a generational shift in attitudes toward the island.S. policy toward Cuba—particularly the embargo and designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism—was deeply unpopular. some analysts are cautious about how rapidly Cuba’s political system will change. including Cuban-American Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).the repeal of Helms-Burton is unlikely to happen anytime soon. with Castro saying he believed Obama was “honest. a move that some say signaled increased political openness.  Relaxing restrictions on small businesses. also participated in the summit. embargo for the twenty-second consecutive year. Public Opinion Polls conducted shortly after the U. A 2015 poll conducted by the U. Yet even with such developments and the release of political prisoners.-Cuba relations was also overwhelming. Several members of Congress from both parties. Experts say Cuba’s participation in the April 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama signaled a “new era” of hemispheric relations. with 188 member countries backing the resolution and only two—the United States and Israel—opposing. Obama and Castro’s meeting was cordial. Some of Castro's reforms included:  Decentralizing the agricultural sector.  Making it easier for Cubans to obtain government permission to travel abroad. denounced the détente. and in 2014 was reported to be about 20 percent (PDF) of the country's workforce. 6 . including high-profile Cuban dissidents. Normalization between the United States and Cuba has been celebrated in much of Latin America.S.  Liberalizing real estate markets. particularly in Latin America.” Members of civil society. and 66 percent would like an end to the trade embargo. then secretary-general of the Organization of American States. where U. In 2013. heavy foreign debt." he said. Jose Miguel Insulza. Prospects for U. A June 2014 Florida International University poll indicates a majority of Cuban Americans also support normalizing ties and ending the embargo. They point to the acceleration of political detentions that took place in the weeks leading up to Obama's 2016 visit. arguing that engagement instead of isolation could help improve human rights in Cuba.S. Cuban figures estimate that the number of self-employed workers nearly tripled (PDF) between 2009 and 2013.-Cuba relations. A majority of Cuban Americans support normalizing ties and ending the embargo. Castro began to liberalize parts of Cuba's largely state-controlled economy and loosen restrictions on personal freedoms.

says Julia Sweig. Despite the embargo. experts say. The Crossroads: Cuba. and its shifting role in the world. 7 . banking. Bush’s 2003 decision to reauthorize the export of U. including foreign leaders and rights activists." Additional Resources This White House Fact Sheet outlines changes in U. This Foreign Affairs article by Julia Sweig and Michael Bustamante looks at how economic reforms are transforming Cuba. a Cuba and Brazil scholar at the Lyndon B.S.S. the United States has become Cuba’s fifth-largest trading partner since 2007. its relationship with the Untied States. may create "a political dynamic that would ultimately shift opinion inside Congress to eventually repeal.S. Sweig offers a guide to Cuba's politics.S. agriculture. In the short term Obama will continue to use executive authority to open U. policy toward Cuba. or no longer enforce. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin. boosted in part by U. In her book Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know. President George W. she predicts. This Global Economic Dynamics video series. pharmaceuticals. examines changes taking place in Cuba. This. telecommunications.S. agriculture and telecommunications industries stand to gain the most from expanded trade to Cuba. investment. she says. agricultural products to the island. argue that the United States should go further and lift the economic embargo. Congress. due to strong opposition in the U. and travel.-Cuba ties around trade. Helms-Burton.Many observers. The U. That is unlikely to happen in the near future. writes CFR’s Jennifer Harris.S.