U.S. and Cuba restore ties

Cuba and the United States of America restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, having severed diplomatic ties in 1961 amid the Cold War. U.S. diplomatic representation in Cuba is handled by the United States Embassy in Havana, and there is a similar Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C..The United States continues to maintain a commercial, economic, and financial embargo, which makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba.

As the sway of the Spanish Empire over its possessions in the Americas was crushed in the 1820s as a result of the Spanish American wars of independence, only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish–American War (1898) that resulted from the Cuban War of Independence. Under the Treaty of Paris, Cuba became a U.S. protectorate; the U.S. gained a position of economic and political dominance over the island, that persisted after it became formally independent in 1902. Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, bilateral relations deteriorated substantially. In 1961, the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and began pursuing covert operations to topple the Communist regime.

Moreover, the U.S. imposed and subsequently tightened a comprehensive set of restrictions and bans vis-a-visa the Cuban regime as retaliation for the nationalization of U.S. corporations’ property by Cuba, and has stated it will continue it so long as the Cuban government continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights, hoping to see democratization and a reintroduction of capitalism of the type that took place in Eastern Europe after the revolutions of 1989. Meanwhile, several organizations, including a nearly unanimous UN General Assembly, have called for “an end to the United States’ decades-long economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

On December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the beginning of a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S., which media sources have named “the Cuban Thaw.” Negotiated in secret in Canada and Vatican City over preceding months, and with the assistance of Pope Francis, the agreement led to the lifting of some U.S. travel restrictions, fewer restrictions on remittances, U.S. banks access to the Cuban financial system, and the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Havana, which closed after Cuba became closely allied with the USSR in 1961. The countries’ respective “interests sections” in one another’s capitals were upgraded to embassies on July 20, 2015.

Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Enhancement Act of 2000, exports from the United States to Cuba in the industries of food and medical products are permitted with the proper licensing and permissions from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the United States Department of the Treasury. The Obama administration eased specific travel and other restrictions on Cuba in January 2011. A delegation from the United States Congress called on Cuban president Raúl Castro on 24 February 2012 to discuss bilateral relations. The Congress delegation included Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator from the state of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Richard Shelby, Republican Senator from the state of Alabama and ranking member of the Committee of Banking, Housing and Urban Matters; they went to Cuba as part of a delegation of Senators and Representatives of the Congress of United States. Travel and import restrictions levied by the United States were further relaxed by executive action in January 2015 as part of the Cuban Thaw.

Originally published at kufarooq.blogspot.com on July 22, 2015.