Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Today, December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced plans to re-open the Embassy of the United States in Havana and "to ease restrictions on travel and commerce" with Cuba.
The Washington Post reported today that this announcement follows a year and a half of "secret negotiations" with the Cuban government under President Raul Castro.
The announcement also included the news that Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor for the Agency for International Development in prison for the past five years, has been released along with an unnamed intelligence operative both in exchange for the release of three Cubans convicted of espionage in 2001.
President Obama said...
"We extend a hand of friendship. We can't keep doing the same thing over five decades and expect a different result."
The Washington Post says...
"The outreach does more than break down one of the enduring legacies of the Cold War. It also reverberates across many political frontiers where the standoff between Washington and Havana played a role."
The Post article pointed out, however, that Cuban-American lawmakers, such as Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), oppose the new policy on the grounds that it will "invite further belligerence toward Cuba's opposition movement and the hardening of the government's dictatorial hold on its people."
CNN presented a different view from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) who was "thrilled" by the announcement and said that "it is in the best long-term interests of the United States" and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) who called the move toward a normalization of relations between the two countries "a good thing."
Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who represents Alan Gross's district in Maryland, said that Mr. Gross told him that he believes the new policy "will be helpful to the Cuban people."
CNN also is reporting today that Pope Francis and the Vatican played a "key role" in the agreement.
"U.S. to start talks with Cuba to normalize ties," by Karen DeYoung and Brian Murphy, The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com
CNN LIVE, December 17, 2014
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