US-Cuba Relations Thawing

35

The United States and Cuba have opened talks aimed at restoring full diplomatic ties, in a historic shift in relations between the two countries.

Both countries have had a fractious relationship for decades, with the US accused of making several attempts to assassinate former Cuban Dictator, Fidel Castro.

The US imposed its trade embargo on Cuba in 1960 and broke diplomatic relations with the communist island in 1961.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro spoke separately today about relations between the two countries.

Obama plans to overhaul its policy towards Cuba, while the island plans to free 53 political prisoners and to allow US debit and credit cards to be used on the island.

This follows Cuba’s release of an American professional sub-contractor, Alan Gross, from a Cuban prison where he spent five years on espionage charges.

Obama says the US was looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The plans set out in a White House statement also includes reviewing the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, easing a travel ban for US citizens, lifting financial restrictions, increasing telecommunications links and increasing efforts to end the 54-year-old trade embargo.

Obama says the embargo has not been beneficial to either American or Cuban citizens.

US travelers will be able to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba.

This includes up to $100 in alcohol and tobacco, such as Cuban cigars.

While the policy change wouldn’t include tourism, it will permit more travel to Cuba.

As news broke of the planned talks between the two former Cold War enemies, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Robert Ready took to social media to share his thoughts on the matter.

Speaking through his official Twitter account, the High Commissioner said there will be big implications for Cuba and the US, but Caribbean states will also begin to face completely new competition.

Canada stayed on the sidelines when it hosted high level talks between the US and Cuba.

The White House says Canada played an indispensable role in facilitating the talks.

And Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says the Jamaican government ‘enthusiastically’ welcomes the joint announcement in Washington and Havana today of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and Cuba.

A statement this afternoon from the Prime Minister’s Office says she’s congratulated President Obama and Cuban President, Raul Castro, on the historic development.

She’s hailing what she describes as their their bold and visionary leadership on this matter.

Mrs. Simpson Miller says the move brings US and Cuban foreign policies in line with modern international diplomatic arrangements.

She says it vindicates the position taken repeatedly by the majority of nations of the world at the United Nations and in other international fora for an end to the US trade embargo and other attempts to isolate Cuba.

The Prime Minister says Jamaica looks forward to the tangible benefits that the new engagement will bring for the Cuban people and the Caribbean region.

Mrs. Simpson Miller says the normalization of the relationship between the United States and Cuba is a victory for all the peoples of the Americas.

She says it’s also a vindication of the principled position of Jamaica, the Members of CARICOM and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, who have, for decades, called for dialogue and mutual respect between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Edmund Bartlett, is hailing President Obama’s decision to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Mr. Bartlett says it’s an epochal moment in Caribbean political history and diplomatic relations.

Mr Bartlett says Jamaica has been at the centre of this matter in the Caribbean.

He says this has significant implications as it signals the normalization of relations between two of Jamaica’s very important friends and neighbours.

Ed Bartlett, Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, speaking with Nationwide News.

He says given that the USA is Jamaica’s largest trade partner and Cuba is our closest neighbour, there’ll be new opportunities for discussions on trade and also deeper economic collaboration among Jamaica, Cuba and the USA.

Mr. Bartlett says the Opposition is encouraging continued steps towards the full removal of the trade embargo.

He says this will unlock the gates to free trade in the Americas.

–30–