Cuba, US set to normalise ties Barack Obama
 Barack Obama

Barack Obama

WASHINGTON. – The United States and Cuba are to start talks to normalise diplomatic ties in a historic shift in relations between the two countries, US officials said. The US is also looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. The moves are part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and includes the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

US President Barack Obama hailed the “most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years”.

Speaking from the White House, Obama remarked: “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests. These changes will begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

“There’s a complicated history between the US and Cuba … I was born in 1961, just two years after Fidel Castro took power, and just months after the Bay of Pigs … We’re separated by just over 90 miles (about 150km). All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, as both family and foe.”

While Obama spoke, Raul gave a relatively brief address, which started with the announcement that the Miami three agents had been released -Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino. “As Fidel said in July 2001 – they will return,” Castro said.

Castro said that he had spoken to Us Secretary of State John Kerry about normalising relations between the two countries, adding that President Obama’s decision deserved “respect and gratitude.”

He also thanked the Vatican, Pope Francis and Canada for their support in the process.

But he stressed there was still much work to be done: the US economic blockade remains in place, he said, causing “enormous damage to our people. It must end.”

Acknowledging that the blockade is established in law, Castro said that president Obama could modify its application, and he called on the US government to adopt measures which will benefit both countries.

“Recognising that we have many fundamental differences on the subjects of national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, we reaffirm our willingness to discuss all of these subjects.”

Castro called on the US government to remove the obstacles between the countries, dividing families – specifically he called for the re-establishment of direct flights, postal deliveries and telecommunications.

“The progress we have already made shows that it is possible to find solutions to our problems,” he said

Castro also said that Cuba had freed Gross for “humanitarian reasons”.

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

The 65-year-old spent five years behind bars after being accused of subversion, for trying to bring internet services to communities in Cuba.

He was freed on humanitarian grounds.

His arrest and imprisonment had undermined attempts to thaw diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The three newly freed members of the Cuban Five have been in prison for more than 15 years, technically convicted of “conspiracy to act as non-registered foreign agents”.

Two of those men’s wives, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, have been advocating for their husbands’ release for years, and spoke with Duncan Campbell for the Guardian about the case in 2006. – BBC/The Guardian.

You Might Also Like