[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] announced [statement, video] Wednesday that the US and Cuba will reopen embassies in each other’s capital cities, after 54 years of severed diplomatic relations. Obama said US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] will travel to Havana this summer for the opening of the new US embassy. Obama said the past isolation policy against Cuba did not work, as it isolated the US from its neighbors in this hemisphere, shut America out of Cuba’s future, and made life worse for Cuban people. He went on to say that engagement through embassies and business is the best way to advance US interest in support of democracy and human rights and the US will be able to increase contacts with the Cuban people. He acknowledged however that the countries will continue have its differences, including views on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the ability to access information, but that engaging the Cuban people is the best way to support these values. Several members of Congress disagree [AP report], however, claiming this move legitimizes or even rewards the Castro regime.
In December, Obama announced [JURIST report] policy changes in the relationship between the US and Cuba. Obama said both countries then directed teams to work toward reopening the embassies. In January, eight Republican and Democratic Senators introduced legislation [JURIST report] that would end US travel restrictions on Cuba. The US government formally removed [JURIST report] Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in May.