Lindsey Robertson
December 19, 2014 11:09 am

On Wednesday, something pretty astounding happened and it’s something that each and every one of us should have on our radar. After roughly 50 years, the U.S. reinstated diplomatic relations with Cuba. That’s huge. Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been openly hostile since the early 1960s, when Cuba’s revolution resulted in a communist regime — and soon after, an American embargo.

President Obama said in his Wednesday address that, “Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past,” calling the frozen relations between the two countries “outdated.” Cuban President Raul Castro, in his own TV address, said that he was also in favor of reestablishing relations with the United States. “Ever since my election . . . I have reiterated on many occasions our preparedness to hold a respectful dialogue with the government of the United States based on sovereign equality,” he said. 

This is all a HUGE flip from the previous state of affairs between the United States and Cuba. So, what exactly does this turn of events MEAN? Quite a lot.

For starters, the move included the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who had been accused of spying and detained in Cuba for the last five years. Three Cubans who were being held in the U.S. have also been released back to Cuba. That was step one. 

The list of plans that the White House released in a statement also include easing financial restrictions, lifting the travel ban on U.S. citizens, and increased communications with the island.

Obama has also said that the U.S. is looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

This does not yet mean, however, that the trade embargo between the two countries has been lifted. That is a move which can only be made by Congress — and there are certainly a few members of Congress who are less than thrilled with this new decision. Republican Senator Marco Rubio in particular criticized the new policy, saying that it did not take into account or address Cuba’s political and human rights issues. Basically, there is a fear that the United States’ new friendship with Cuba might imply that the U.S. condones Cuban policies. 

President Obama, however, believes the opposite. His assertion is that the 50 years of isolation has really only made Cuba feel justified in its policies.

While it remains unclear what will happen with the embargo and how this move will affect Cuban citizens in their daily lives, it’s clear that we can expect considerable changes in terms of how the American population views Cuba, and hopefully broaden our knowledge and acceptance of a new culture — not to mention, improve life for the Cuban people.

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