US President Barack Obama [official website] on Wednesday announced policy changes [press release; fact sheet] to the US-Cuba relationship. Obama has directed Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] to reestablish diplomatic relations and to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. He also announced “steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.” Obama said:
Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas. This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future. And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter. Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections. A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together—not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.
Obama’s announcement comes after media reports indicated that Cuba had released US contractor Alan Gross [JURIST news archive].
Upon taking office, Obama pledged to reexamine US policy toward Cuba. In 2011 Obama ordered the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security [official websites] to take steps to ease restrictions on travel and remittances [JURIST report] to Cuba. The regulations built off of those issued in April 2009 [JURIST report], which eased travel and remittances restrictions for Cuban Americans and their families in Cuba only.