President Obama and Cuba Policy – Summary:
- Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the restoration of full relations between the United States and Cuba, along with a raft of reconciliatory actions. Obama said the US and Cuba have chosen “to cut loose the shackles of the past”, and Castro called for the embargo to end.
- Cuba released American Alan Gross from prison after nearly five years of captivity. Cuba also freed a spy held for more than 20 years, an act the US intelligence chief called “a fitting closure to a Cold World chapter”.
- The US announced overhauls to commerce, travel and internet restrictions, and the restoration of an American embassy in Havana. Cuba said it will release 53 political prisoners, allow greater internet services, and work with international groups like the UN. The White House refused to rule out a visit by President Obama to Havana.
- The US will free three Cubans convicted of espionage-related charges in 2001, members of the so-called Cuban Five and Wasp Network. Castro hailed their freedom as a fulfillment of his brother Fidel’s declaration that “they will return.”
- Pope Francis and Canada revealed roles facilitating the talks. The pontiff praised Cuba for having recently relaxed its economic policies and quietly cooperating in backroom meetings over the past year or so.
- Alan Gross thanked the president and said ordinary Cubans deserve no blame for his imprisonment or health problems. He urged both the US and Cuba to rescind their “belligerent policies”.
- Congressional leaders and presidential hopefuls lashed out at the president for “vindicating a dictator”. Obama requires Congress to lift the embargo, but faces factions in both parties unhappy with renewed relations.