Cuba may soon be open again! After five decades of a failed policy that few could justify by any reasonable means, President Obama announced that it was time to move America in a new direction and begin to normalize relations with the island state. The bombshell announcement was made after months of secret negotiations between the Obama and Castro Administrations.
U.S. President Barack Obama pushed Cuba to improve its record on human rights and sparred with President Raul Castro during a historic visit to the Communist-ruled island on Monday, while Castro hit back by decrying U.S. "double standards".
On Sunday, President Obama will begin his historic visit to Cuba. He will be the first president since Calvin Coolidge to visit the island, and his mission is a prime manifestation of what some people—not me, necessarily—might call the “Obama Doctrine.” Obama has been remarkably consistent over the years in questioning why adversaries of the United States have remained adversaries, and in Cuba, at least, he has an answer: They don’t have to be adversaries, at least not all of them. (The chance of an Obama victory lap in Tehran appears at the moment to be vanishingly small, despite the nuclear agreement.)
President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a historic visit to Cuba next month, speeding up the thaw in relations between the two Cold War former foes but igniting opposition from Republicans at home. In the first U.S. presidential trip to the Caribbean nation in nearly 90 years, Obama will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, entrepreneurs, and "Cubans from different walks of life" during the trip on March 21 and 22, the White House said.
It used to be notoriously difficult, but it's now becoming much less so. In January, President Obama announced a "new course" with Cuba that included an easing of many restrictions banning Americans from traveling to the island.
Pope Francis went to east Cuba on Monday to celebrate the second Mass of a trip that has earned him praise for aiding the Communist rulers' rapprochement with Washington, but has so far steered clear of overt politics. He is the first Pope to visit Holguin, capital of the province where the Castro brothers, Raul and Fidel, grew up.
The sight was so unlikely that some Cubans could scarcely believe it: a U.S. secretary of state lecturing their Communist government about democracy and human rights on state television. As the U.S. flag was raised at America's embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years, John Kerry called for a "genuine democracy" in Cuba and his comments were broadcast across the country in full, translated accurately into Spanish so everyone could understand.
Jubilant crowds waved American flags and chanted "Long live the United States!" as the Stars and Stripes rose over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Cuba on Friday after a half-century of often-hostile relations. Secretary of State John Kerry celebrated the day but also made an extraordinary, nationally broadcast call for democratic change on the island. Hundreds of Cubans mixed with American tourists outside the former U.S. Interests Section, newly emblazoned with the letters "Embassy of the United States of America." They cheered as Kerry spoke, the United States Army Brass Quintet played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and U.S. Marines raised the flag alongside the building overlooking the famous Malecon seaside promenade.
As far back as 1980, Raúl Castro began to harbor doubts about Cuba’s long-term sustainability. By 1990, with the loss of their Soviet patron and its $5 billion annual subsidy, Raúl’s doubts crystallized into alarm even while his brother Fidel hunkered down, resisting reform. And though Raúl took power in 2006, it would be six years before he could finally overrule his ailing brother, who turned 89 years old on Thursday. “There has been a sibling tug of war between Raúl and Fidel since childhood,” Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer, tells me over lunch this summer at Versailles, the restaurant that serves as the mecca of Cuban life in Miami.
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