Cuba–United States relations

US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro during a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro during a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, which had been severed in 1961 during the Cold War. U.S. diplomatic representation in Cuba is handled by the United States Embassy in Havana, and there is a similar Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.. The United States, however, continues to maintain its commercial, economic, and financial embargo, which makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba. Although the U.S. President, Barack Obama, has called for the ending of the embargo, U.S. law requires congressional approval to end the embargo.

As the sway of the Spanish Empire over its possessions in the Americas was crushed in the 1820s as a result of the Spanish American wars of independence, only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish–American War (1898) that resulted from the Cuban War of Independence. Under the Treaty of Paris, Cuba became a U.S. protectorate; the U.S. gained a position of economic and political dominance over the island, that persisted after it became formally independent in 1902.

Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, bilateral relations deteriorated substantially. 

On December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the beginning of a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S., which media sources have named “the Cuban Thaw.” Negotiated in secret in Canada and the Vatican City

U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba have been in place for 54 years, but never before have the presidents of both countries said the same thing about them.

Lift the embargo, Raúl Castro says. Lift the embargo, President Obama says, urging Congress to do so.

Exactly how that is supposed to happen is the emerging point of contention in a still-fragile relationship marinated in distrust. Nearly a year has passed since the presidents put the countries on a path toward normalization, but with Obama out of office in 14 months, their window of opportunity is shrinking.

After announcing last month the most significant loosening of Cuba sanctions in decades, the White House says there is little else it can do without Havana’s help. If the Castro government engages more readily with American businesses, signs new contracts and green-lights more connections for travel and telecommunications, business interests will poke so many holes in the embargo that it will fold, engagement advocates say.

Raul Castro: ‘We need to be patient’

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro  in Panama City, Panama.
“We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient,” Castro said. “We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”

Speaking to reporters after his session with Castro, Obama said the meeting was “candid and fruitful” and could prove to be a “turning point” in his push to defrost ties with Cuba.

06 July 2015

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, D.C.
July 6, 2015


Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

President Obama announced on July 1, 2015, the historic decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States of America, effective July 20. The U.S. Department of State also notified Congress of its intent to convert the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba to U.S. Embassy Havana, effective on the same date. These are important steps in implementing the new direction in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014.

On July 1, the U.S. and Cuban Interests Sections exchanged presidential letters declaring mutual intent to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies on July 20, 2015. President Obama affirmed that the two governments had agreed to develop “respectful and cooperative” relations based on international principles, including the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

The U.S. Embassy will continue to perform the existing functions of the U.S. Interests Section, including consular services, operation of a political and economic section, implementation of a public diplomacy program, and will continue to promote respect for human rights. The U.S. Embassy will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values and increase engagement with the Cuban people.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana will operate like other embassies in restrictive societies around the world, and will operate in sync with our values and the President’s policy. Diplomats will be able to meet and exchange opinions with both government and nongovernment entities. Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis will be the senior-most official in the new embassy and will serve as Charge d’Affaires ad interim.

Normalizing relations is a long, complex process that will require continued interaction and dialogue between our two governments, based on mutual respect. We will have areas of cooperation with the Cubans, and we will continue to have differences. Where we have differences, deeper engagement via diplomatic relations will allow us to articulate those differences clearly, directly, and when appropriate, publicly. Throughout our diplomatic engagement, the United States will remain focused on empowering the Cuban people and supporting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.

The embargo on Cuba is still in place and legislative action is required to lift it. Additionally, rules for travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens remain in effect. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue to administer the regulations that provide general licenses for the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba.

The Administration has no plans to alter current migration policy, including the Cuban Adjustment Act. The United States continues to support safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States and the full implementation of the existing migration accords with Cuba.


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