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Historic changes for Cuba to come as U.S. normalises relations

In an unprecedented move that shook the world, yesterday saw Cuba and the United States work together with the exchange of political prisoners as they showed their disposition to further engage in more dialogue and take more future steps to normalise relations between the two countries. This could mean the end of the long embargo law or at the very least, more freedom of exchange between the two countries.

Historic changes for Cuba to come as U.S. normalises relations

The world was watching yesterday when the announcement came that Cuba and the U.S. were exchanging political prisoners, and not just any prisoners, but ones that were at the heart of some of the two countries’ most heated debates of late. The freeing of Alan Gross and the three Cubans marked a new era for these two neighbouring nations that have been at odds for over half a century.

Beyond the exchange of prisoners, both presidents of both countries were also quick to issue statements in which they welcomed scope for more change and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

While Barack Obama said that he would be looking into opening a U.S. embassy in Havana in the coming months, Raul Castro on his part said changes like these, were something Cuba had been pursuing and pressing for a very long time;

"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,"

Mr Castro added;

"We must learn the art of coexisting, in a civilised manner, with our differences."

President Obama was more detailed and lengthy in his speech as he disclosed in more details what his plans were for changing American policy towards Cuba in the near future. He promised to ease financial restrictions to the island, re-establish commerce and trade, increase telecommunication links to open the Cuban people to the outside world and help democracy in the island, further ease the travel ban to the island imposed on U.S. citizens and review the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Most importantly and significantly, he also said to put forward his effort to lift the 54-year-old trade embargo. Although for the latter to happen he needs U.S. Congress approval, it’s an extraordinary resolution no other U.S. President has taken.

"I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. (…)

“In that spirit we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help."

Also expressing his admiration for Cuba’s healthcare system and the many doctors the island sent to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis, Obama highlighted how both countries’ healthcare systems could work together. He made emphasis on the fact that freedom for Cuba and for the Cuban people could only be achieved through more open relations and a more active people-to-people exchange between Cubans and Americans, not through isolation.

"I am convinced that through a policy of engagement we can more effectively stand for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century”.

“Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future, for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world."

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