Tuesday, July 07, 2015

US-Cuba Relations

WASHINGTON, USA -- The United States and Cuba formally agreed on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations on July 20, setting up a trip to Havana by John Kerry, who would become the first US secretary of state to visit the country in 70 years.

Sealed by an exchange of letters between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the deal fulfills a pledge the two countries made six months ago.

The letters set a date of July 20 for the re-establishment of relations, and embassies could be opened at that time or later.

Kerry, speaking from Vienna, said he would visit Havana to raise the US flag outside the future US embassy, currently known as an interests section.

"The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past," Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. "When something isn’t working, we can -- and will -- change."

Obama noted that ties were severed in the year he was born, 1961.

Isolating Cuba had been a foreign policy objective under ten US presidents and Obama declared it had failed to promote democracy or improve the lives of Cubans living in a one-party state.

"It hasn’t worked for 50 years. It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people," Obama said, while noting stark differences between the two governments would remain.

Cuba's Communist government controls the media and represses political opponents, a policy it has justified based on US attempts to destabilize the government and Washington's open support of dissidents.

Raul Castro, 84, Fidel Castro's younger brother and Cuban president since 2008, welcomed diplomatic ties that he said should reinforce the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in his country.

"Cuba is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments," Castro wrote in his letter to Obama.

Obama said the agreement would increase US contact with ordinary Cubans, permit a larger staff of diplomats and grant them more freedom of movement across the island.

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