BY NATHALIE MAIRENA, THE HARBINGER
It was Cold War hostilities that pushed the Cuban embargo in 1961. The embargo completely froze commercial, financial, and economic ties between the United States and Cuba, and thus it has remained for the past 54 years. That is until yesterday, December 17, when Obama said they would return to “normalized” relations with Cuba, unraveling years of hostilities.
Obama announced specifically that he planned to “normalize relations between our two countries” and he also wished to open an embassy up on Cuba’s shores.
The deal also calls for a trade in prisoners- the United States will give three of the five Cuban spies they have in custody in exchange for Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.
This is all 18 months in the making, with secret talks arranged between current dictator of Cuba Raul Castro and Obama.
Very few knew of what was going on behind the scenes, with even the Democratic Party shocked by the sudden announcement. The only confirmed person to know about the negotiations was Pope Francis, who helped arrange meetings between the two.
The connotations of the announcement have been met with hostility and concern.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”
The news however, is not set in stone. While Obama does have the power to ease traveling to Cuba, it is ultimately up to Congress to decide whether or not to completely lift the official embargo. The White House says it plans to establish the embassy in a few months, but that has yet to be fully confirmed.
What does follow the immediate announcement is the release of Alan Gross, which occurred the same day of the announcement.
Obama has also now made it easier to travel to Cuba, though only under limited circumstances. It has also become easier to send money to Cuba as well. It is unknown how this easing of tension will affect the “Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot” policy, but it is assumed that will be answered soon.
Economically, the impact will be slow on both the United States and South Floridian economy- the entire Cuban embargo would need to be lifted in order to see any immediate effects. Obama has authorized the export of building materials and technology, but tourism remains still banned.