The U.S. and Cuba are closer than ever to formally resming diplomatic relations.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations broke during the Cold War when Cuba agreed to allow Soviet nuclear missiles on its soil and repelled an invasion by American-backed insurgents -- an event now known as the Bay of Pigs.
President Dwight Eisenhower broke diplomatic relations in 1961 after former Cuban President Fidel Castro reduced the American Embassy staff, saying embassy staffers were part of an American plot to topple the revolutionary Communist government. In place of embassies, an agreement was made in 1977 to open "interest sections" in the capitals without ambassadors or much diplomatic activity.
Officials in the governments agree on the need for fully functioning embassies and ambassadors to accelerate normal relations. The U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, started by President Eisenhower, and strengthened by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, is now being undercut by the Obama administration in an attempt to increase trade and prosperity in Cuba.
Some issues remain before relations can be normalized. An anonymous State Department official said, “I do think we’re closer than we have been in the past ... we have certain requirements that we need met, so we just have to see whether we can get there in this round of talks.”
Gustavo Machin, a top Cuban diplomat, told reporters: “We don’t see obstacles but rather issues to resolve and discuss.” Cuba’s primary concerns regarding a re-establishment of normal relations have already been addressed, now that Cuba is expected to be removed from the U.S. government’s list of nations that sponsor terror, The New York Times reports.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who is the lead negotiator with Cuba, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C., that an agreement to embassies would not be made if diplomats aren’t given more freedom to leave Havana. She also wanted assurance that Cubans could visit the embassy without being harassed by police and that the embassy would be more adequately staffed, Reuters reports.
Raul Castro, the president of Cuba and brother of Fidel, raised his concern that dissidents are receiving “illegal” training at the U.S. Interests Section, where the U.S. trains independent journalists on basics of the profession. In Cuba, the officially sanctioned news media is controlled by the state.
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