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U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years

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U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years

Post  Admin on Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:22 pm

The United States and Cuba agreed on Wednesday to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed more than 50 years ago, and President Barack Obama called for an end to the long economic embargo against its old Cold War enemy.

After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.

The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. The Vatican and Canada facilitated the deal.

Obama's call for an end to the economic embargo drew resistance from Republicans who will control both houses of Congress from January and who oppose normal relations with the communist-run island.

Obama said he was ending what he called a rigid and outdated policy of isolating Cuba that had failed to achieve change on the island.

His administration's policy shift includes an opening to more commerce in some areas, allowing use of U.S. credit and debit cards, increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cubans and allowing export of telecommunications devices and services.

RESTRICTIONS REMAIN

Travel restrictions that make it hard for most Americans to visit will be eased, but the door will not yet be open for broad U.S. tourism on the Caribbean island.

His announcement also will not end the U.S. trade embargo that has been in force for more than 50 years. That is codified in legislation and needs congressional approval. Obama said he would seek that approval but will likely face a struggle.

Obama said the opening was made possible by Havana's release of American Alan Gross, 65, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Gross' case had been a major obstacle to improving relations.

Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States.

Cuba and the United States have been ideological foes since soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Raul Castro's older brother, Fidel Castro, to power. Washington broke diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961 as Cuba steered a leftist course that turned it into a close ally of the former Soviet Union on the island, which lies just 90 miles (140 km) south of Florida.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/17/us-cuba-usa-gross-idUSKBN0JV1H520141217

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