Cuba and US attracts world attention with tie mending

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Cuban leader Raul Castro (L, Back) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (R, Back) on the sidelines of the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama City, capital of Panama, on April 11, 2015. U.S. and Cuban leaders held first face-to-face talks in over half a century on Saturday in Panama City, amid detente between the two nations. (Xinhua/Estudios Revolucion/Pool/Prensa Latina) (da)
Cuban leader Raul Castro (L, Back) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (R, Back) on the sidelines of the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama City, capital of Panama, on April 11, 2015. U.S. and Cuban leaders held first face-to-face talks in over half a century on Saturday in Panama City, amid detente between the two nations. (Xinhua/Estudios Revolucion/Pool/Prensa Latina) (da)

by Xinhua Writers Ovidio Acosta, Mao Pengfei

Cuba and the United States have jointly caught worldwide attention once again after announcing the resumption of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies on each other’s soil after 54 years of enmity.

Cuban leader Raul Castro (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) on the sidelines of the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama City, capital of Panama, on April 11, 2015. U.S. and Cuban leaders held first face-to-face talks in over half a century on Saturday in Panama City, amid detente between the two nations. (Xinhua/Estudios Revolucion/Pool/Prensa Latina) (da)
Cuban leader Raul Castro (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) on the sidelines of the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama City, capital of Panama, on April 11, 2015. U.S. and Cuban leaders held first face-to-face talks in over half a century on Saturday in Panama City, amid detente between the two nations.
(Xinhua/Estudios Revolucion/Pool/Prensa Latina) (da)

The historic decision which was contained in letters sent Wednesday to each other by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, was disclosed six months after the two leaders surprised the world with their determination to begin a process to renew ties.
Diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries were broken off unilaterally by the United States on January 3, 1961, a few weeks before launching the invasion on Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) in Cuba’s southwest Matanzas province.
Since then, restoring ties on either side of the Straits of Florida appeared to be a pipe dream. Now, it has become a reality.
However, as acknowledged by both governments, reestablishing diplomatic ties and opening the embassies in Havana and Washington are just the first step in a “long and complex” route towards fully normalizing relations.
One of the thorniest issues is the economic, financial and commercial blockade the United States has maintained against the island since 1962. The blockade has caused losses exceeding 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars on the Cuban side, according to the U.N.
The embargo, decreed by late U.S. President John F. Kennedy on February 3, 1962, has been seen by Cuba as the main barrier to its development and normalization of bilateral relations.
After the blockade against Cuba was formalized, the striking measure was reinforced by 10 U.S. administrations which added other regulations such as the Cuban Democracy Act (1992) and the Helms-Burton Act (1996).
On January 16, a month after the bilateral announcement and prior to the first meeting to begin the process, Washington implemented policies to ease the embargo somehow and allow certain financial and commercial transactions with Cuba.
Obama said the blockade policy had “failed” and asked Congress, of a Republican majority, to repeal the laws that support it. But everything indicates that his political rivals will not make things easy for him.
There is also the issue of the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo. Established in 1903 after the U.S. military occupation of the island, it covers an area of 45 square miles (117 square kilometers) in eastern Cuba.
Cuba does not recognize the treaty, believing the document on the establishment of the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo was signed under pressure and demands the territory be returned to Cuba.
The base was plunged into international disrepute following the opening of a prison during the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. It was designed to hold foreigners suspected of being members of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda after the attacks on the U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001.
Cuba has been demanding that the United States return Guantanamo to it, which was blatantly refused by its neighbor.
“The naval base is not something that we believe should be closed,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in January.
The United States would keep the base even after the prison is emptied, Earnest said.
In a governmental statement issued Wednesday, Cuba said that to achieve normalization of ties, propaganda against the island’s socialist system must be stopped.
It also asked for compensation for human and economic damages caused by U.S. policies.
Other equally controversial issues still in the pipeline are the U.S. “dry foot/wet foot” policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The “dry foot/wet foot” policy applied in the last 20 years allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. territory to stay legally in the country, while those caught at sea are returned to the island.
The Cuban Adjustment Act grants residency and work permits immediately to Cubans, a privilege impossible for other immigrants in the United States.
Among many other differences between the two countries is the human rights controversy.
Washington has repeatedly mentioned the issue in Cuba, while Havana expressed “concerns” about practices in its neighboring country. Enditem

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