In a surprising diplomatic move, President Barack Obama announced in December that he would pursue a path toward normalizing relations with Cuba. The Cold War ended a quarter century ago, but relations between the United States and its tropical island neighbor/enemy to the south have remained frozen. A trade embargo enacted in 1960 is still in place, as are various sanctions against Cuba’s communist government for human rights violations. Obama aims to change all that.
A simultaneous announcement was made in Havana by Cuban president Raul Castro, and as part of the deal to improve relations, the two governments revealed an agreement to swap prisoners held on espionage charges. An American held in a Cuban jail was freed, as were a handful of Cuban spies in U.S. prisons. In addition, Cuba released more than fifty dissidents from Cuban jails, whom the United States claimed were political prisoners. The U.S. Treasury Department announced it will ease financial restrictions on Cuba and on Cubans no longer living in Cuba.
Obama acknowledged that the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba cannot be fully accomplished without the action of Congress. Senator Mario Rubio, a Florida Republican and himself a Cuban American, is one vocal opponent. Those opposed to lifting the embargo recall that Cuba’s revolutionary government confiscated, without compensation, the personal property of American companies. So far, Obama’s opening toward Cuba has been criticized for involving concessions mostly on the U.S. side.
A majority of Americans have supported the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba; however, there is a sharp divide politically, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to endorse a change in policy. In the past, the nation’s 1.8 million Cuban Americans have blocked normalization of relations so long as the Castros remain in power. Although considerable differences of opinion exist among Cuban Americans, the younger generation tends to view more favorably the pursuit of improved relations.
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- Obama Announces Historic Revamp of US-Cuba Relations
This article discusses the gist of President Obama’s new Cuba policy and reactions to the announcement.
(Source: VOA News, December 17, 2014)
- The Political Demography of U.S.-Cuba Relations
This article presents a demographic perspective on both Cuban Americans and Cuba itself.
(Source: Washington Post, December 18, 2014)
- The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations
This article offers a provocative, in-depth look at the history of the troubled U.S.-Cuba relationship.
(Source: Forbes, December 23, 2014)
- Americans on Cuba: For Normalized Relations, but Party Divide Exists
This article presents results of recent Gallup polls about the normalizing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, pointing to the sharp political divide.
(Source: Gallup, December 18, 2014)
- Cuban Dissidents Out of Prison but Not Entirely Free
This article explores the status of Cuban political opponents of the Castro regime who were recently freed because of an accord with the United States.
(Source: Reuters, January 13, 2015)
- Poll: Cuban-Americans Split on Obama’s Cuba Policy
This article examines public opinion about the change in U.S.-Cuba policy, especially among Cuban Americans.
(Source: Miami Herald, December 19, 2014)