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In Boon for Florida, Obama Will Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations With Cuba After 53 Years of Cold War

| December 17, 2014

Havana Street in Havana, Cuba. (Gareth Williams)

Havana Street in Havana, Cuba. (Gareth Williams)

President Obama is addressing the nation from the White House at noon today to announce that diplomatic relations with Cuba will be restored and embassies of the two nations will open in Havana and Washington, D.C., 53 years and 10 presidents after Dwight Eisenhower, citing “self-respect,” closed the American Embassy in the Cuban capital on Jan. 3, 1961.

Eisenhower would soon approve orders for the CIA to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro, a decision that would lead to a string of blowbacks that culminated with the disastrous and ill-planned Bay of Pigs invasion weeks into President Kennedy’s tenure, and the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles on the island the following year, triggering the Cuban missile crisis.

The more positive trigger this week was the release of Alan Cross, an American entrepreneur who was jailed in Cuba five years ago, on a 15-year prison sentence, for attempting to start an Internet service there. Cross’s imprisonment had been an obstacle to Obama resuming relations, though the two sides have been negotiating secretly for 18 months, according to The New York Times. Cross arrived in the United States this morning. In exchange, though the U.S. government denies there is a connection, the U.S. returned to Cuba three Cubans convicted of spying in 1981. The government said the release was a swap for a CIA agent who’d been in prison in Cuba for 20 years. For its part, Cuba will also release some 53 political prisoners.

Normalized relations with Cuba are a boon to Florida’s economy, as renewed links will open Florida and Cuba to rich economic and cultural exchanges. “”The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” former Gov. Charlie Crist, who narrowly lost a bid to replace Rick Scott in November, said in an interview last May. Obama today used virtually the same words to justify the resumption of relations.

“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,” the White House said in a written statement ahead of a noon statement by Obama. “Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Castro by telephone on Tuesday to finalize the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes,” The Times reports, “the first direct contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years, American officials said.”

European nations and Canada have long maintained diplomatic and economic relations with the island nation of 11 million, giving their companies a competitive advantage in the American hemisphere. Obama’s move toward Cuba is not s surprise. He had signaled that he considered the embargo outdated, and that he wanted closer relations. In his first term, he vastly eased family visits to Cuba. He was not prepared to resume full diplomatic relations, however, until his second term, so as not to jeopardize his chances of winning as much of the Hispanic vote as possible in Florida, which may have provided him the difference between winning and losing that state’s electoral college. (Obama won Florida in 2008 and 2012.) Over time, the Cuban-American community, which had once exercised a veto on Cuban-American relations, has lost its cohesion, with the older generation of immigrants dying off and a younger generation feeling far less inclined to see Cuba as a belligerent.

The Economist in April summed up the damage the embargo was having on the American economy: “Earlier this year Alfonso Fanjul, a sugar tycoon and longtime Castro opponent, raised the possibility of investing in the island. Heavier remittance flows mean that many Americans are now funding Cuban firms without having control over them. Meanwhile, other countries are pushing ahead. The European Union, the largest foreign investor in the island, is soon to start talks on a new accord. In January a deepwater port opened in Mariel on Cuba’s northern coast, a prime spot to handle traffic with the United States should the drawbridge come down. The port was built by Brazil; it is operated by a Singaporean firm.”

Watch President Obama’s full speech. Starts at Minute 27.

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11 Responses for “In Boon for Florida, Obama Will Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations With Cuba After 53 Years of Cold War”

  1. confidential says:

    Hooray!! Can’t wait to be allowed to go and visit, the Island that my father said had the friendliest people and the most delicious food outside of Spain in the 1940’s.
    Just the one wish I had before my time comes to jump across that 60 miles crystal clear puddle south of Key West and see that Island for myself. Congratulations to all those Cuban-Americans that will be able to visit their land now and also all those other American tourist waiting for so long.
    Thank you Mr. President!

  2. barbie says:

    Another great people-distraction, courtesy of the American government. I’m telling you, these guys have perfected the art of “Look over there! SQUIRREL!!!” when it comes to doing stuff to get people fighting each other, rather than pay attention to all the looting of national resources and the deliberate dysfunction and dumbing down of government.

  3. dbc says:

    Hope Obama can keep the momentum on this issue. I have no problem with the USA not doing business with Cuba but they should not bully the world. Here is what is happening.

    Cuba is the only country the United States applies the Trading With the Enemy Act. Using this law USA has levied billions of dollars in fines to various countries and businesses who have done business with the ‘enemy’.
    The Torricelli Act that prohibit subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries from trading with Cuba. Many have had huge fines over the decades.
    The Helms-Burton Act prevents international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, from granting credit to Cuba. This past year many European banks were charged and fined millions.

    Even world travel is affected. This year a Argentina-based travel agency settled for $2.8 million fine for offering services to people who traveled to Cuba. A large Dutch travel company settled for $5.9 million for similar charges. A Canadian subsidiary of the insurance giant AIG, which sold policies to people traveling to Cuba, was levied a $279,038 fine.

    This year the blockade has cost Cuba an estimated $3.9 billion in foreign trade, which brings the inflation-adjusted total to $1.1 trillion lost since the blockade was implemented 55 years ago

    U.S. government uses its full power to punish the world. In June 2014, the Justice Department levied the largest fine in the history of the blockade against French bank BNP Paribas, who paid $9 billion.

    During the last 5 years, 130 extraterritorial actions were taken against Cuba resulting in $11.4 billion in fines

    The big bully just won’t stop. The people of Cuba suffer

  4. sw says:

    Nice Obummer… waste some more time… what a disappointment

  5. Seminole Pride says:

    Wow ! Now we can get all those good Cuban baseball player to come and play for my Miami Marlins. This s great !.

  6. Ron R. says:

    I think this is the right thing to do — the Cuban embargo has gone on long enough.

  7. steve miller says:

    He has to be kidding…is this an April fools joke!
    What is wrong with this mans thought process?

  8. Cuban Refugee says:

    Okie dokie why not, we do business with China and Vietnam. Communism is still a political entity to be reckoned with. I guess if we can’t beat them let’s join them. This country is some what socialist leaning to communism. We have forced health care and the working class pays the most while those that are less apt to succeed are carried along. We tax inheritance after our fathers and mothers payed tax on the same earnings already. We tax auto purchases after the tax was payed by the original owner. Might as well call that communism only by a different name democracy B.S. We might as well get cozy with Cuba cause if we don’t Russia will move in just like the Ukraine right? I came here 1960 a refugee 5 years old. So do I want to support a government that oppresses its population takes and gives little back? You figure out which government that is. Freedom is limited as to where you live there is more here. Less in China and Cuba that’s all. It doesn’t matter what I think but don’t let your guard down folks the war is not over. It’s our rights we need to protect from our government and everyone else’s government trying to take our freedom.

  9. Ben says:

    Great news! The dismal poverty in Cuba is because of the suffocating American trade
    embargo, that only hurts the everyday average people of Cuba.

    I am so glad to see this development (which I never expected in my lifetime….).
    I hope that the ball gets rolling quickly over there with speculators pouring money in,
    in anticipation of the economic boom that will envelop the island in the coming years.
    Great things are coming.

    I can’t wait to buy Cuban sugar, cigars, produce, and coffee.

    Barack Obama, thanks for the bold move.

  10. Lancer says:

    The Communists of Cuba have chosen to be vehemently opposed to the USA. Their dictators have tortured their own people and political dissidents for decades. Their dictators have stolen their people’s lands and have a long history of violating their people’s own human basic rights.

    …but, it’s all thee USA’s fault, right? Wrong.

    The same brutality and economic insanity the Castro’s Cuban government has followed wants to be replicated in the USA. It’s “government knows best” and the left would LOVE to adopt the same stance and put their chosen in power.

    The Gruber minions are with us…stupid democrat voters. Elections have consequences.

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