U.S.-Cuba Relations Speech, December 17, 2014
On December 17, 2014, President Obama stated that the United States is beginning to normalized diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba. U.S.-Cuba relations were severed in 1961, due to deteriorating relations between the United States Government and Castro’s communist dictatorship. Below are the summarized highlights of President Obama’s U.S.-Cuba Relations Speech:
The intention to reestablish U.S.-Cuba relations is to create increased opportunities for both Cubans and Americans. United States policies towards Cuba have been to isolate the island, since 1961, in attempts to change Castro’s dictatorship and support democracy and human rights in Cuba.
Despite these policies, Cuba has been governed by the Castro brothers and the communist party for the past 57 years.
During the Obama administration, restrictions have been lifted for remittances to be sent to family members in Cuba, and for Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba.
While the Obama administration has been prepared to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, a major obstacle has been the wrongful imprisonment in Cuba for the past five years of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor. The Obama administration has had discussions with the Castro government for many months, about Mr. Gross’ release, as well as discussions about other aspects of U.S.-Cuba relations.
Pope Francis helped resolve Mr. Gross’ wrongful imprisonment. Pope Francis also helped the United States address Castro government’s interest in having the United States release three Cuban spy agents, jailed in the United States for 15-plus years.
Mr. Gross has returned home and has been reunited with his family. He was released on humanitarian grounds.
Separately, in exchange for the three aforementioned Cuban agents, the Cuban government released an American intelligence agent, who has been imprisoned by the Castro regime for almost 20 years. This American agent was instrumental in helping the American government arrest a network of Cuban agents and other Cuban spies in the United States.
Additional Steps Taken by President Obama Towards U.S.-Cuba Relations:
(1) President Obama has instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately commence discussions with the Cuban government to reestablish diplomatic relations. The United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana. High-ranking American officials will visit Cuba.
(2) The United States will advance shared U.S.-Cuba interests, such as health, migration, drug trafficking prevention, counter-terrorism, and disaster response, when it can. The United States will also continue to raise issues with the Castro regime related to human rights and democracy in Cuba.
(3) President Obama instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. If Cuba meets United States conditions and renounces the use of terrorism, it should not face this sanction.
(4) The United States government is moving in the direction of increasing commerce, travel, and the flow of information to and from Cuba. These changes will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Moreover, Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards in Cuba.
(5) The Obama administration will increase the amount of remittances that are allowed to be sent to Cuba, and not put limits on remittances used to support humanitarian projects that support the Cuban people and the emerging private sector.
(6) Financial institutions in the United States will be allowed to open accounts at financial institutions in Cuba.
(7) The Obama administration will make it easier for exporters in the United States to sell goods to Cuba.
(8) The Obama administration authorized increased telecommunications connections between Cuba and the United States. Thus, American businesses will be able to sell products to Cuba that will enable Cubans to communicate with other countries, including the United States.
(9) President Obama does not have the legal authority to lift the United States embargo imposed on Cuba for decades. However, he would like to engage congress in a debate to lift the embargo.
(10) Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Raul Castro and made it clear that he strongly believes that Cuban society is constrained by the restrictions imposed on its citizens by the Castro regime.
(11) In addition to the return of Mr. Gross and the aforementioned intelligence agent imprisoned for almost 20 years in Cuba, the Obama administration welcomes Cuba’s decision to release a number of prisoners in Cuba as a result of discussions held between the American and Cuban government.
President Obama went on to state: “I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans. The United States believes that no Cuban should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard.” “We continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.”
Additionally, President Obama stated: “Given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests. I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.”
President Obama further stated: “We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.”
Author Comment: May the people of Cuba and elsewhere, where human rights are repressed, breath freedom soon.
Additional Information About Cuba
Life In Cuba Today, by V. Santamaria
Is Castro Cuban-Americans’ Hitler?, by Charles Garcia, CNN
Castro’s Medical Mercenaries, by Susan Kitchens, Forbes
The Escape – Cubans Escaping From Cuba, by V. Santamaria
Operation Pedro Pan, by V. Santamaria
Cuban Revolution 1959, by V. Santamaria
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