News broke on Wednesday, December 17, that the United States plans to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and will open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years. The historic move came after the release of an American intelligence agent who had been in captivity in a Cuban prison for 20 years, and an American contractor, Alan P. Gross, who had been captive for five. In exchange, the U.S. released three Cuban spies who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001.
Secret talks were held over the last 18 months between Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, encouraged by Canada and Pope Francis. Establishing direct contact between leaders of the two countries for the first time in half a century, Obama and Castro reportedly had a phone call on Tuesday to finalize the deal.
Calling the embargo on Cuba a failure, Obama addressed the nation in a televised speech Wednesday morning, stating: “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.”