Wednesday, December 17, 2014

US and Cuba poised for historic thaw in ties

The United States and Cuba were on the brink of a historic thaw in ties Wednesday after a prisoner exchange cleared the way for talks on ending their five-decade-old stand-off.

Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro were to make major speeches after Havana released US contractor Alan Gross in exchange for three Cubans held in the United States for spying.
The United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba -- the Cold War foe closest to its shores -- in 1960 and the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961.

A US trade embargo hurt the Caribbean island state's economy, but it failed to unseat the Havana governments led first by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and latterly by his brother Raul.

Obama now has only two years left in office, Fidel Castro is 88 and ailing and Raul is 83. With the window for the rival leaders to revive relations, both sides are under pressure to make a gesture.

Separately, the White House and the Cuban governments announced that the presidents would make major addresses on relations between their countries at 1700 GMT.

It was immediately reported that Obama's address would mark a major breakthrough towards a resumption of diplomatic relations and a slackening in the sanctions regime.

US lawmaker Dick Durbin, a senior lawmaker and member of the Senate foreign relations committee, hailed the move.

"Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not," he said.

The thaw came as officials confirmed the prisoner exchange. Gross was freed after five years in jail in Cuba in exchange for three Cubans -- "a swap with intel assets" -- a US official said.

Both sides had previously made the release of their nationals a precondition for opening negotiations on warmer ties.

"This morning, Alan Gross has departed Cuba on a US government plane bound for the United States," another US official said.

"Mr Gross was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States."

Cuba arrested Gross, 65, in December 2009 for distributing communications equipment to members of the island's Jewish community while working as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 after being convicted of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state."

Despite the tensions, both Cuba and the United States have maintained channels of communication, even as Havana has taken steps to liberalize its communist-led command economy.............AFP.............




  1. US President Barack Obama said Wednesday a "new chapter" had been opened in Washington's ties with Cuba, saying it was time to end an "outdated approach" that had failed to move relations forward...

    "Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter," Obama said.

  2. Cuban President Raul Castro said Wednesday that Cuba had agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cold War enemy the United States after a prisoner swap paved the way to a historic breakthrough...

    "We have agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after more than half a century," he said in a nationally broadcast address. He added, however, that the divisive issue of the US trade embargo, which he called the "blockade," remained unresolved.

    1. Comparecencia especial de Raúl sobre Estados Unidos

      El General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, comparecerá este miércoles a las 12 del día a para realizar una importante alocución sobre las relaciones de Cuba con Estados Unidos.........

  3. Estados Unidos y Cuba retoman sus relaciones económicas y políticas ...

    Tras casi 56 años de hostilidades y retórica política, Washington y La Habana ha dado un giro de180 grados a sus relaciones políticas y económicas. El embargo queda prácticamente desbaratado y pronto habrá embajadas en las dos capitales.

    Tras la liberación del contratista Alan Gross de una cárcel en la isla comunista y su intercambio por tres cubanos detenidos en Estados Unidos por espionaje, la Casa Blanca ha adelantado que como parte del acuerdo los dos países establecerán próximamente relaciones diplomáticas completas a nivel de embajada. Ahora se resumen a una sección de intereses y un consulado, bajo la protección de Suiza.

    "Hoy, Estados Unidos está tomando medidas históricas para trazar un nuevo rumbo en nuestras relaciones con Cuba y para confraternizar y comunicarse con el pueblo cubano. Estamos separados por 90 millas de mar, pero unidos gracias a las relaciones entre los dos millones de cubanos y cubano-americanos que viven en Estados Unidos con los 11 millones de cubanos que comparten una esperanza similar de llevar a Cuba a un futuro más prometedor", dice una nota de la Casa Blanca distribuida con el adelanto del anuncio que hará el presidente Barack Obama y Raúl Castro al mismo tiempo....................

  4. Obama: “Todos somos americanos” ...

    Estados Unidos y Cuba comienzan este miércoles una nueva etapa tras el anuncio de que se ponen en marcha las conversaciones para restablecer relaciones diplomáticas. Barack Obama y Raúl Castro han realizado sendas comparecencias a las seis de la tarde hora española. “Todos somos americanos”, ha dicho el presidente estadounidense en español. “Debemos aprender el arte de convivir de forma civilizada con nuestras diferencias", ha dicho el líder cubano...................

  5. Obama hails 'new chapter' in US-Cuba ties ...

    US President Barack Obama has hailed a "new chapter" in US relations with Cuba, announcing moves to normalise diplomatic and economic ties.

    Mr Obama said the plans represented the "most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years".

    Cuban President Raul Castro welcomed the policy shift in his own national televised address.

    The move includes the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

    Mr Gross arrived at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington from Cuba on Wednesday. Footage showed him disembarking from a US government plane onto the tarmac where he was met by a crowd..............

  6. Secretary Kerry: Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes (U.S. State Department) ...

    John Kerry
    Secretary of State
    Washington, DC
    December 17, 2014
    "I was a seventeen year old kid watching on a black and white television set when I first heard an American President talk of Cuba as an "imprisoned island.”

    For five and a half decades since, our policy toward Cuba has remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba. Not only has this policy failed to advance America's goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba.

    Since 2009, President Obama has taken steps forward to change our relationship and improve the lives of the Cuban people by easing restrictions on remittances and family travel. With this new opening, the President has committed the United States to begin to chart an even more ambitious course forward.

    Beginning more than twenty years ago, I have seen firsthand as three presidents -- one Republican and two Democrats -- have undertaken a similar effort to change the United States' relationship with Vietnam. It wasn't easy. It isn't complete still today. But it had to start somewhere, and it has worked".............

  7. FACT SHEET: Charting a New Course on Cuba (The White House, Office of the Press Secretary)...

    "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.

    It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

    We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. 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. 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"..............

  8. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as well as an easing in economic and travel restrictions on Cuba Wednesday, declaring an end to America's "outdated approach" to the communist island in a historic shift that aims to bring an end to a half-century of Cold War enmity....

    "Isolation has not worked," Obama said in remarks from the White House. "It's time for a new approach."

    As Obama spoke, Cuban President Raul Castro addressed his own nation from Havana. Obama and Castro spoke by phone for more than 45 minutes Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961................Read more:

  9. Obama pidió al Congreso un debate sobre la suspensión del embargo ...

    En una declaración simultánea, el presidente de Cuba, Raúl Castro, asumió que ambos jefes de Estado ayer mantuvieron conversaciones telefónicas y aseguró “el restablecimiento de las relaciones diplomáticas” entre las dos naciones, aunque aclaró que aún no se resolvió “el bloqueo económico comercial y financiero que provoca enormes daños humanos y económicos” a la isla e instó a Obama a modificar las leyes en el “uso de sus facultades ejecutivas.

    El mandatario norteamericano anunció hoy el "fin" de una política hacia Cuba que es "obsoleta" y "ha fracasado durante décadas", en una comparecencia desde la Casa Blanca, y destacó la implicación "personal" del papa Francisco en el proceso de negociaciones entre su país y Cuba para iniciar una normalización de las relaciones diplomáticas bilaterales.

  10. Svolta storica, Obama apre a Cuba: scambio di prigionieri e inizio nuove relazioni diplomatiche...

    Il presidente ha dato incarico al segretario di Stato John Kerry di iniziare le trattative con Cuba, rilanciando le relazioni diplomatiche interrotte nel gennaio 1961. Nei prossimi mesi l'ambasciata americana sarà riaperta nella capitale dell'isola caraibica. L'Avana e Washington Dc "lavoreranno su questioni di interesse comune", spiega una nota della Casa Bianca, citando l'immigrazione, la lotta contro il traffico di droga, la protezione ambientale e il traffico di esseri umani. Gli Stati Uniti rivedono le restrizioni ai viaggi e al trasferimento di denaro con Cuba.......................

  11. The White House opened the door Wednesday to a visit to Cuba by President Barack Obama, who announced a dramatic breakthrough in relations with Havana...

    "I certainly would not rule out a presidential visit," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, however adding: "There is nothing on the schedule right now."

  12. Cuba's Raul Castro urges US to lift trade embargo ...

    Cuban President Raul Castro has urged the US to end its trade embargo after the two countries opened formal talks on restoring diplomatic relations.

    He said the five-decade embargo "caused enormous human and economic damage".

    But only the US Congress has the power to lift the embargo, and correspondents say many Republicans are still deeply opposed to this.

    On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama and Mr Castro agreed a number of measures to improve ties.

    They included the release by Cuba of US contractor Alan Gross and three Cubans held in the US.

    Relations between the US and Cuba have been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a trade embargo after Cuba's revolution led to communism.

    But in unprecedented moves on Wednesday, Mr Obama said the "rigid and outdated policy" of isolating Cuba had clearly failed.

    He said economic reforms were still needed in Cuba and human rights there needed to be upheld. But he said it was time for a new approach................


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