[JURIST] The US on Monday completed the re-opening [press release, PDF] of diplomatic ties with Cuba by converting the standing US Interests Section into the US Embassy Havana [official website]. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba was first announced [JURIST report] by President Barack Obama [official profile] on July 1st, and was slated to become fully effective by July 20th. On July 1st, the U.S. and Cuban Interests Sections exchanged presidential letters [texst] expressing mutual intent to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies, after both countries 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 US Embassy Havana will continue to operate much as the Interests Section did, providing consular services, operation of a political and economic section, implementation of a public diplomacy program, and will continue to promote respect for human rights. However, the re-opening of the embassy does not affect the embargo [JURIST backgrounder] on Cuba, as there would need to be legislative action taken in order for it to be lifted. Previous travel restrictions will also stay in place, and current migration policy in the form of the Cuban Adjustment Act [text, PDF] will not be affected.
After a decades-long strained relationship between the US and Cuba, President Obama began to take steps late last year to improve the diplomatic relationship [JURIST backgrounder] between the two countries. In April, President Obama announced [NY Times report] that he would be removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism [text] list, which enumerates countries that sponsor terrorism. President Obama completed Cuba’s removal [JURIST report] from the list in May as a positive step towards restoring diplomatic relations between the nations. Also in April, a bill [JURIST report] was introduced in the House of Representatives that proposed tying any further removal of sanctions against Cuba to the nation’s human rights record [HRW report]