White House

US-Cuba to re-establish diplomatic ties, open embassies

The flag pin worn by a member of a U.S. Senate delegation in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, represents the two countries moving toward the reopening of embassies.
The flag pin worn by a member of a U.S. Senate delegation in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, represents the two countries moving toward the reopening of embassies. AP

The Obama administration has reached an agreement with Cuba’s government to re-establish diplomatic ties and open embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time in more than half a century, a senior administration official said.

President Barack Obama -- who upended 50 years of strained U.S.-Cuba relations in December -- will announce the news at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Rose Garden. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Vienna for talks on Iran’s nuclear program, will also make an announcement.

The move comes shortly after the administration removed one chief stumbling block to renewed relations, striking Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The two nations had engaged in a series of talks since December aimed at re-establishing ties, hashing out sticking points, including how many diplomats would be authorized for each embassy and whether Cuba can offer assurances of freedom of movement for U.S. diplomats around the island.

Obama’s Cuba overtures have generally been applauded, but Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, accused Obama of looking to buff up his legacy. She said that since the U.S. announced plans to restore relations, the State Department has failed to condemn a spike in repression of dissidents on the island.

“This administration has shown that politics trump policy in its decision-making process,” she said. “Opening the American Embassy in Cuba will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”

Obama in December announced an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with the communist-ruled Cuba and authorized an expansion of travel and trade with the island.

While Obama said at the time that the Castro regime continues to repress its citizens, he believed that it was time to scrap a U.S. policy that has failed in its goal of bring democracy to Cuba.

“I don’t expect a transformation of Cuban society overnight, but I’m convinced with engagement we can more effectively stand up for our values,” Obama said.

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