Last Wednesday President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and declared an end to America’s “outdated approach” to the communist island. “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” said Obama as he made remarks from the White House. “It’s time for a new approach.”
“Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba,” President Obama continued.
Cuban President Raul Castro addressed his nation from Havana, saying that while the two countries still have profound differences in areas such as human rights and foreign policy, they must learn to live together “in a civilized manner.”
The announcement to improve relations with Cuba followed more than a year of secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba. Meetings were held in Canada and the Vatican with personal involvement from Pope Francis. The re-establishment of diplomatic ties included Cuba’s release of American Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned for five years, and the swap of a Cuban who had spied for the U.S. for three Cubans jailed in Florida.
The three Cubans released in exchange for the spy are part of the Cuban Five a group of men who were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S.
It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state,” President Obama continued.
“With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.”
“Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas. We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people”, said President Obama.