President Obama announced plans December 17 for the United States to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending decades of isolation with the Caribbean nation. Secretary of State John Kerry will lead efforts to chart a new course in U.S. and Cuban relations, the president said.
As part of resuming diplomatic relations, a U.S. Embassy will reopen in Havana within months, along with the launch of high-level exchanges between the two governments.
"To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship. Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom."
President Obama spoke with Cuban President Raúl Castro for about 45 minutes December 16, the first substantive presidential-level talks between the two nations since 1961. Later, both leaders separately addressed their respective people.
Other highlights from the president's plan include:
• Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons.
• Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba.
• Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans' access to communications and their ability to communicate freely.
• Addressing Cuba's participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Secretary Kerry said, "This new course will not be without challenges, but it is based not on a leap of faith but on a conviction that it's the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people, and to promote America's national security interests in the Americas, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American businesses."