Five-plus decades of hostilities with Cuba are coming to an end as President Obama announced a July 20 date for the United States and the communist nation to re-open embassies and kick off a new diplomatic relationship.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the plan in a joint Wednesday press conference.
Calling the move a historic step, Obama then said, in a televised speech from the White House Rose Garden: “When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone thought it would be more than half a century before it reopened.”
He also called on Congress to lift the trade embargo currently keeping Cuba from doing business with America.
“Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same,” Obama said.
Obama’s call echoed one made by the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
“There could be no normal relations between Cuba and the United States as long as the economic, commercial and financial blockade continues to be fully implemented, causing damage and scarcities to the Cuban people,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry to CNN read. “The blockade is the main obstacle to the development of our economy; it is a violation of International Law and affects the interests of all countries, including those of the United States.”
The reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba and Raul Castro actually kicked off in May when the White House dropped the country from its list of sources of state-sponsored terrorism.
But the warming of relations aren’t welcomed by all.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who’s seeking the Republican nod for president in 2016 – and who has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s move to establish ties with Cuba – vowed to block the confirmation vote of any U.S. ambassador to the post.
And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had this to say, the Hill reported: “There was little doubt that the Obama administration would pursue its goal of opening an embassy in Cuba no matter the sad reality on the ground. 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.”