Obama Restores Ties With Cuba

After 50 years, the U.S. has restored ties with Cuba.

After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.

The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. The Vatican and Canada facilitated the deal.

Obama is also calling for an end to the embargo. Republicans aren't happy with that and Congressional approval is necessary to lift it. There was also a prisoner exchange: [More...]

Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States.

Alan Gross arrived in the U.S. today. John Kerry met with him at Andrews Airforce Base.

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    The embargo has not been lifted, (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by fishcamp on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:26:10 PM EST
    but it is lifting. It's difficult for we Americans to understand the pure hate that Marco Rubio and the domino playing Cuban's in Little Havana, hold in their hearts.  I'm sad they and their people lost everything back in 1958, but progress is being made due to the efforts of Obama, the Pope, Castro, and amazingly, Canada.  I applaud all of them for their forward thinking.  Hopefully the many problems will be overcome.   Viva los Estados Unidos y Cuba tambien.

    How auspicious was our discussion ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:55:55 PM EST
    ... of not too long ago on this very subject?

    I'm actually excited to see the final vestiges of the former Cold War crumble away with today's announcement. This is a good day for everyone, save for that loud little handful of bitter hatemongers in South Florida. But at this point, who cares what they think?

    Dogs bark, the caravan passes.


    Weird thing is that they've moved on... (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 10:37:47 PM EST
    Two or three generations have grown up here.  How many would go back if they could?  How many of those were the large ranch and sugar plantation owners?  Not many, according to John F. Kennedy:

    At the beginning of 1959 United States companies owned about 40 percent of the Cuban sugar lands--almost all the cattle ranches--90 percent of the mines and mineral concessions--80 percent of the utilities--practically all the oil industry--and supplied two-thirds of Cuba's imports.

    Kennedy to Jean Daniel, October 24, 1963:

    I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.

    from the Wikipedia entry on Batista

    One month later, Kennedy was dead.


    Former assets are never returned (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by sj on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:58:31 PM EST
    Ask the Palestinians or Native Americans. I don't understand why some Cuban refugees think that would ever happen. I understand them being aggrieved. Truly. But those assets are lost.

    Quite a few of my NJ catholic school peers (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:52:36 PM EST
    were sons and daughters of Cuban emigres from around the time of the revolution. Their parents were friends of my parents. Conversations among the emigres after a few cocktails often got spirited. I think we Americans should be able to understand the hate that some hold toward Castro and Guevara, etc.

    idea of normalized relations between our two countries.

    Anyone see if there is anything in US-Cuba deal (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Peter G on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 09:27:18 PM EST
    about the status of U.S. revolutionary fugitives of the '70s who have had sanctuary in Cuba, such as Assata Shakur/Joanne Chesimard?

    What a fantastic coincidence... (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 10:41:23 PM EST
    She was added to the FBI's most wanted list just about 18 months ago.  After 40 years.

    When did talks begin?  About 18 months ago.


    Sorry, (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 10:41:55 PM EST
    I'll bet that's a return to the Ten Most list, (none / 0) (#27)
    by Peter G on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 11:32:40 AM EST
    not a first appearance.  In fact, it looks like this is some other ("most wanted terrorists") list, not the traditional "Ten Most Wanted." I can't imagine she wasn't on Most Wanted list for a least a while after the Black Liberation Army (and some white supporters) busted her out of a New Jersey prison, from which she disappeared to Cuba.

    Here's our answer: (none / 0) (#43)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Dec 22, 2014 at 07:11:05 PM EST
    Cuba says it has a right to grant asylum to US fugitives

    HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America's most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.

    Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

    While I very much support (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Slado on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 10:37:01 PM EST
    this change in policy nothing has really changed other then we will now have diplomatic relations with Cuba and alter our travel policy.

    If we get no change out of our show of good faith to the Cuban government then it will not matter.   The regime will use the influx of cash to strengthen its hold on power and we'll get nothing more then an exotic place to travel.

    While many on here are quick to snark at the Rubios's of the world I'd ask them to keep in mind that their true motivation is political freedom for the Cuban people and reductions in the human rights abuses purpotrated on the people by the regime.  What we disagree on is how to get there.  In my view the policy of isolation has failed by every measure and while hawks are correct to point out softening our policies gives away leverage I would only say what did that leverage get us before?   50 years of nothing.

    So will we use new embargo negotiations to foster real changeover. in the government?  Will we offer aid to the regime is to s to remain in if they agree to a free press, Internet service, an economy were the people are paid fairly for their work instead of the state using the money to optess it's people?

    So many possibilities become real because of Obama taking this bold first step.  Now what?   This is his moment.   Just doing what Europe does isn't enough.  To make a difference to the people of Cuba we have to engage this regime and use our economical influence to push it down a reformist path.

    What I think many don't consider is the regimes main goal is to remain in power.   If it doesn't change that mindset then we can do whatever we want but it won't mak a differencez

    I am not sure that is the true (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by caseyOR on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 01:45:38 PM EST
    motivation for all of them, Slado. Rubio, for example, is hardly a beacon for the human rights of people here in the U.S. and in other places around the world. I have never heard him speak out against the torture regime of Bush/Cheney or our indiscriminate use of drones. Apparently, if he is concerned about political freedom and human rights abuses, that concern does not extend beyond the borders of Cuba.

    I think the anger on the part of some, mainly old-timers, in the Cuban-American community has more to do with the huge upheaval in their lives that was the result of the Revolution. They left their homes and their businesses and everything they had behind.


    Listening to the reaction (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Slado on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 06:44:58 PM EST
    From people like Rubio and activists today I get the feeling that their biggest fear is that the regime even without the Castro's will remain in power thanks to this deal.  I agree with them.  I also think they would have staid in power either way and if left completely isolated would have slowly discended towards a state of dispare like North Korea.    People keep saying that once their dead it will all change.   How?   The military and party are in place and all those powerful elite will be higly motivated to keep it going.   I doubt they will just turn over the keys the day after the last Castro is gone.

    Meaning even with our move the best we can hope for is a slow transition to a modern communist state like we see in China or Vietnam.   This for them is not an acceptable option.  They feel that at the least Cuba could become a social democracy but thinking on it I just don't see it.  Why?  Because unfortunately for the people of Cuba the reality is they've been living for the last 57 years under a pure tyrannical oppressive old school Communist government.  Not a military dictator or a king but an all encompassing suppression of individual rights and freedoms.   I think it important for supporters of this shift to acknowledge the reality of the regime and stop pretending it isn't exactly what it is.   If we want to really help the people of Cuba we should use our new influence to improve the human rights conditions of the Cuban people.  Just pumping money into the country with no strings will not give any real reforms.  

    But for the Rubios's of the world I would think our last few years would have taught us democracies are hard to start and I just don't think this country is ready for an election the day after a collapse and the leaders take their money and flee to Switzerland or Malta.

    There is absolutely no social structure for the mechanisms of democracy.   The State controls every aspect of daily life.   No media, no economic freedom and the constant fear of a police state.  Remove the state and you have nothing.  Good or bad.  We all know what happens when such a vacuum is created.  Not good.

    So what to do?  I am unfortunately of the opinion that we're probably just going to have to live with the Cuba that becomes a reforming Communist state.   Still not a free country but at least not a tyrannical communist state were you live in constant fear of your neighbor.

    As we've seen in China it's not perfect but capitalism and free trade create a better society for the average person and while the government is still not anything we could live with its better overall for the average person.

    The die hards to me do in fact have noble ambitions, just unrealistic ones.


    What about cigars? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 11:13:37 PM EST
    Any change in availability?

    A friend wants to know.

    Cubanos continue to be available via (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 11:39:10 PM EST
    Canada and Mexico. I do love me some Ramón Allones.

    Good to go. (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 03:41:01 AM EST
    $100 worth of Cuban cigars (none / 0) (#24)
    by fishcamp on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 07:20:31 AM EST
    is only about five or six of the really good brands.  They are incredibly expensive.  When I was there we could go into the dollar store and buy them, but we couldn't bring them back.  Every good dinner restaurant has a few boxes of Cohibas, and others available.  They are smuggled in and will continue to be smuggled in.  Cuban rum is  way too sweet for me.  There's really nothing else I'm interested in buying from Cuba.  The relatively unmolested Bonefish flats could be a reason to go.  The Blue Marlin fishing is good due to the pelagic thermocline that exists on the Caribbean side.  They have very few big game fishing boats available, and they're not equipped like ours.  I would prefer to spend any vacation money on other Caribbean islands, which all have fantastic resorts and great fishing.

    of Cuba. The "forbidden fruit" is probably not nearly as tasty once you're free to have it. Any other Caribbean island has much, much more to offer, once the initial spike of Cuban curiosity is over.

    Interesting take (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Slado on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 11:31:00 PM EST
    All the complaints people have about Cuba's regime could be said about China.

    And guess who we have normal relations with?  So what are we really arguing about?

    So what if it's Obama doing it?   Still the right thing to do in terms of a first step.

    Charlie Pierce on Cuba (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by MO Blue on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 05:24:53 AM EST
    Charlie has an interesting article on this subject. This possible aspect of Obama's decision hasn't been covered here but it is something to think about IMO.

    As politics, of course, it's completely brilliant. Fresh off the Triumph Of The Morons, the Republicans now have two major freak-outs in their base that will do nothing except inflame the implacable Right, and thereby cripple the party's ability to reach out to the new Hispanic voters it claims it wants to attract. The president has dressed Mitch McConnell and John Boehner in meat suits and sent them to feed the wolverines. This is extraordinarily well-played.

    Question for you, MO (none / 0) (#37)
    by NYShooter on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 07:14:33 PM EST
    What would you give to be able to conceive, and, construct words in a way like those last two sentences?

    Obama dressing the two clowns in meat suits, go feed the wolves.....hilarious, pitch perfect!


    I would love to write even half (none / 0) (#38)
    by MO Blue on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 07:35:54 PM EST
    as well as Charlie Pierce. You have an entertaining way with words also.

    I'm better at research than at writing. Although at various times in my career, I was selected to write various presentations. I wrote more carefully then and my proof reading was 100 times better.

    Then again, I would also like to have Yman's research skills. Google and I wrestle constantly until I somehow get it to release the information that I know is there.


    lol. I'd like to know where the president (none / 0) (#40)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 05:43:38 AM EST
    found the wolverines.

    One of the most rabid wolverine (none / 0) (#41)
    by MO Blue on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 07:04:30 AM EST
    was located in Texas and another was found in Florida. :o)

    There were several more in the pack but other commenters can fill in the blanks.


    U.S. & Cuba news and the Newspapers (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by christinep on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 11:16:02 AM EST
    It was nice to see the supportive, encouraging, and even it's-about-time editorials from a major sampling of major newspapers on the subject of normalizing relations with Cuba.  In addition to the NYTimes and my hometown Denver Post, a quick check also shows the Miami-Herald, Kansas City Star, Minnesota StarTribune, Jersey Journal (covers the second largest Cuban American community in North Hudson), USA Today, etc. in the positive column.  

    But, but ... what has happened and is happening with the Washington Post. In the past, we came to know that WP definitely beats-the-drums-for-war(s) in more than one situation (aka the more muscle, the better.)  Some of us thought that Fred Hiatt had that particular foolish tendency.  Then, in the past few years, readers are subjected to Chris Cillizza and his ilk ... imo, a thinly-disguised water boy for the R side of the aisle.  And, I still read other columns, and ignored his.  But, but, but ... looking at the WP editorial on the momentous positive movement, I saw something that looked like it was drafted by the Let's Keep the Cuba Isolation Policy Forever Policy.  I reread it to confirm that it actually was the WP editorial.  What a pile ... but, but, my question is WHAT IS GOING ON AT THE WASHINGTON POST?  One thing we do know: It seems to be less than the shadow of Kathryn Graham's great newspaper.

    An alternative view of current day Cuba (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by MO Blue on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 12:47:10 PM EST
    This article by Julia Cooke who has lived in modern day Cuba paints a somewhat different picture than the article in the Manhattan Institute's magazine City Life.

    Another article by Miriam Zoila Pérez whose parents who were 11 and 13 when they left Cuba and have never been back.

    Yes, capitalists (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by jondee on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 04:36:51 PM EST
    adopted a much sunnier view of Chinese totalitarianism and repression once they began selling things like surveillance technology to them..

    This mornings Miami Herald (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by fishcamp on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 09:01:39 AM EST
    says the previously upset Cuban Americans are now divided 50/50 with Obamas decision regarding establishing relations with Cuba.  It also says it would cost Castro about $7B to restore land, businesses, and everything, even including a bicycle, to the previous owners.  Castro does not have that much money, so let the compromises begin.  For those interested in a quaint vacation, I suggest Cartagena, Colombia, which has the oldest walled city in the western hemisphere.  It has great hotels, restaurants, shopping, and many things to do.  The fun thing to do in Havana is walk along the Maleçcon and stare wistfully towards America.

    realpolitik (none / 0) (#1)
    by thomas rogan on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:06:54 PM EST
    The limits on the amount which Cuban emigres can send to relatives in Cuba went up dramatically.  Due to the two currency system there, the government skims off a lot of this money.  With Russia and Venezuela going broke, the US will take over as the financial enabler of the Castro regime.
    Of course, given the history of the Arab spring,  this administration may prefer the "stability" of the Castros to the possibility of a messy outbreak of democracy occurring 90 miles offshore.

    The messy outbreak part... (none / 0) (#34)
    by unitron on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 04:10:10 PM EST
    ...is a lot more of a sure thing than the democracy part.

    The Castro brothers aren't going to live forever.

    A power vacuum in the wake of their passing is a forgone conclusion.

    Exactly what will fill that vacuum is not.

    Restored relations gives us a much better chance of helping steer things away from an outcome involving massive bloodshed.


    Marco isn't happy with the Popes involvement (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:07:03 PM EST
    Pope Francis:  Take up the cause of freedom

    "I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy," Rubio, a Roman Catholic, told reporters at the Capitol when asked if the pope's role in the Cuban negotiations influenced his view of the deal.

    (That's the National Review- fyi)

    Sounds (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by lentinel on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 10:02:50 PM EST
    like Rubio is running for Pope.

    In Red State (none / 0) (#4)
    by Politalkix on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:40:33 PM EST
    they have gone off the deep end. Erik Eriksson is writing that the President has transformed America in a way that Frank Marshall Davis would be proud, the Communists have won, America has lost and somewhere there is also a tirade against Mom's jeans.

    All more or less expected (none / 0) (#5)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 08:44:22 PM EST
    otoh I thought Rubio, a Catholics, slap at the Pope, THIS Pope, was rather breathtaking.  I was curious what that Catholics think.

    As for the Cathoholics like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich who like to think of themselves as more pious than the Pope, I hope their friggin' heads explode.

    One welcome piece of collateral damage from today's announcement was Jeb, whose announcement of a presidential exploratory committee was knocked clean out of the news cycle.



    Of course (none / 0) (#10)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 09:09:52 PM EST
    but I really meant more about hm saying it.  Do you not think he will pay for that with non Cuban Catholics?   I'm asking.  But I don't ever remember a politician publicly taking on the Pope.  Particularly in the way he did.  This Pope has been pretty "there" on freedom if you ask me.  A non Catholic.

    Forget the politicians, Capt., there (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by caseyOR on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 01:36:27 PM EST
    are bishops and cardinals decrying the words and actions of this Pope. You may not know this, Capt., but those who take religious vows, priests for example, are supposed to obey the Pope. They are not supposed to criticize and complain about him in public.

    So, to me it is much more shocking for people like the recently demoted Cardinal Burke to so publicly attack the Pope.


    Time to demote (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by MO Blue on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 01:39:06 PM EST
    Burke again.

    Thanks for the response (none / 0) (#32)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 01:43:54 PM EST
    i agree with you.  I guess my wonderment stems from never remembering a catholic politician so publicly take a swipe at the Pope.  And on an issue that really seems to be something he really does care about.  Freedom.

    But I admit it's not an area I follow closely.  That's why I asked.


    The Miami Herald notes (none / 0) (#11)
    by Peter G on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 09:15:00 PM EST
    To me (none / 0) (#28)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 11:37:51 AM EST
    the fact that it's called "The Helms/Burton" law is enough reason to get it off the books.