‘Isolation has not worked’; US restores diplomacy with Cuba

Cuba Libre via Flickr/CC
Cuba Libre via Flickr/CC

President Obama announced today that the United States will reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba and will open a new embassy in Havana. The announcement came in tandem with Cuba’s release of Alan Gross, an American worker who was jailed for bringing communications equipment to the island.

The president said that there will be fewer travel limits, and as well as an easing on limits on banking and business. The travel embargo, however, will remain in place pending Congressional action. “I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest debate on lifting this embargo,” the president said. 

Cuba and the U.S. have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, in the midst of the Cold War with Fidel Castro leading the country. Fidel Castro stepped down in 2008 and his brother, Raul Castro is the current president. According to Obama, this brings end to the “rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

The Atlantic reports that most Americans are in favor of lifting the embargo:

A Florida International University poll in June found that 68 percent of Cuban Americans favor normalized diplomatic relations; 69 percent want travel restrictions to Cuba to end; and 52 percent want the embargo lifted. “We are witnessing a clear demographic shift with younger and more recently arrived Cubans favoring a change in policy toward the island,” said Guillermo J. Grenier, who ran the poll.

However, the political pushback was swift. Florida Republican and potential presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio critiqued the announcement: 

 “Today’s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost,” Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American, said in a statement. “When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.” (From The New York Times.)

More:

KCRW’s To the Point on the announcement.

KCRW’s Press Play on the news.

Full transcript of President Obama’s statement.  

Cuban President Raul Castro’s statement.  

Vox has more on Cuba’s dismal human rights record.

KCET has an interesting history of the role of Cuban exiles in Echo Park.