US, Cuba to Open Embassies to Restore Ties

Decision Announced Wednesday Morning

The United States and Cuba have agreed to open embassies in their capital cities, a major step in restoring ties after more than 50 years of hostilities.

President Barack Obama says the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington is another demonstration that the U.S. doesn’t have to be imprisoned by the past.

He’s calling it an “historic step.”

Obama says Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana over the summer to raise the American flag over the embassy.

Obama says the reopening of a full embassy in Havana means American diplomats will be able to engage directly with Cuban government officials, civil society leaders and ordinary Cubans.

He’s referring to the freedom of movement for U.S. diplomats that had been a sticking point in negotiations to reopen the embassies.

Obama is also calling on Congress to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

He says lawmakers should listen to the Cuban people and the American people who oppose maintaining economic sanctions against the island nation.

The Cuban government says Havana and Washington will restore full diplomatic relations and reopen embassies July 20.

The Foreign Ministry in Havana made the announcement Wednesday morning after receiving a letter from President Barack Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro.

The onetime Cold War foes have not had full diplomatic ties for more than five decades.

The United States’ top diplomat in Havana delivered the letter from the White House to Cuba.

U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis arrived at the Cuban Foreign Ministry in Havana on Wednesday morning to hand-deliver the message.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the Obama administration is handing Fidel and Raul Castro “a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing” for the Cuban people who have been oppressed by a brutal communist dictatorship.

In a statement, the Republican leader maintained that relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom “and not one second sooner.”

The statement underscores the heavy lift for the administration in persuading Congress to end the embargo or even approve any taxpayer dollars on a U.S. embassy in Havana.  

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