Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

USA announces ‘historic’ opening with Cuba

The United States announced a “historic” thaw in relations with Cuba, saying on Wednesday it would work to re-establish diplomatic ties with Havana and ease long-standing trade and travel sanctions.

Washington will re-establish an embassy in Havana “in the coming months”, a senior administration official said after a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

Obama was due to make a policy announcement at the White House in the afternoon. Cuban President Raul Castro was set to make a speech at the same time.

The pair spoke on Tuesday to discuss the plans for the release of US national Alan Gross and three Cubans held in the United States in exchange for a “US intelligence asset,” the official said.

“The president also made clear his intent to pursue these policy changes but also to continue our advocacy for human rights in Cuba,” the officials said. The United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba – the Cold War foe closest to its shores – in 1960 and the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961.

Cuban Five

Alan Gross, the US contractor freed after five years in jail in Cuba, was swapped for three Cubans imprisoned in the United States as spies, a senior US administration official said Wednesday.

The official said it was a “swap with intel assets,” acknowledging that the assets were the three Cubans serving US prison terms for espionage. The three were the remaining members of the so-called “Cuban Five”, a network of spies arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001.

The three still in prison at the time of the swap were Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino. The two others – Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez – returned to Cuba in February 2014 and April 2013 respectively.

Among other things, the five were accused of infiltrating a Cuban exile group, “Brothers to the Rescue”, which flew private planes over the Florida Straits to look for people fleeing the island by boat. Information relayed by the group allegedly led to the 1996 shootdown of two of the group’s aircraft by Cuban fighter aircraft, killing four people.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis played a vital role in bringing Cuba and the United States to the negotiating table, making a “personal appeal” to the nations’ leaders, a US official said.

The pontiff “sent that letter directly to President Obama, and separately he communicated through a letter directly to President Castro early this summer,” a move that gave “greater impetus and momentum” in the process to normalize relations, the senior administration official said. – (Sapa-AFP)

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Canna-business deal for Ingonyama Trust land

Foreign investment has been lined up for a joint venture with the Ingonyama Trust Board, which administers tribal land for the Zulu monarch

NPA ‘refuses’ to prosecute Oscar Mabuyane

The Hawks have accused the NPA of ‘dragging its feet’ despite voluminous evidence against the Eastern Cape premier

More top stories

ANC Durban election candidate shot dead while on door-to-door campaign

One other man was shot dead and two others were rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds

Rule of law drops globally, including in South Africa

Security and corruption prevents the country from ranking higher on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index for 2021

Slice of life: ‘I can read nine or 10 books...

David van der Westhuizen, a street bookseller based at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of the Arts Gallery in Durban, tells Paddy Harper how he survives unemployment

South Africa opens up vaccinations for 12 to 17 year-olds

Vaccinology researcher Professor Shabir Madhi said young people were being vaccinated to reduce the number of people who could transmit the virus and the focus should instead be on people over the age of 50

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…