The United States and Cuba have agreed to establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, the Associated Press is reporting.
According to AP:
The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American Alan Gross, as well as a swap for a U.S. intelligence asset held in Cuba and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.
President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro were to separately address their nations around noon Wednesday. The two leaders spoke by phone for more than 45 minutes Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.
Wednesday’s announcements follow more than a year of secret talks between U.S. and Cuban officials in Canada and the Vatican. U.S. officials said Pope Francis was personally engaged in the process and sent separate letters to Obama and Castro this summer urging them to restart relations.
Obama will announce the moves at noon today from the White House. I will live stream his remarks.
According to USA Today, news of the Cuba announcement drew criticism from anti-Castro Republicans and some Democrats:
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a Democrat and the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a Republican and a long-time critic of Cuba’s government, said the U.S. and Cuba are talking about new trade and banking ties, and the prospect of a U.S. embassy in Havana.
Rubio, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, and other Republicans said the Obama administration should demand democratic reform in Cuba before making any concessions.
“I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship” until Cuba changes, said Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida and another prospective Republican presidential candidate.