Obama: Opening US Embassy in Cuba "a Historic Step Forward"

Daniel Doherty
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Posted: Jul 01, 2015 1:45 PM
Obama: Opening US Embassy in Cuba "a Historic Step Forward"

On Wednesday, President Obama announced from the White House that the United States and its longtime rival, Cuba, were moving beyond Cold War suspicions and entering a new partnership.

“More than 54 years ago today, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana,” he began. “Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and reopen embassies in our respective countries.”

“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,” he continued, “and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.”

Not surprisingly, the president also emphasized that such a diplomatic breakthrough was a long-time coming, and therefore will be officially celebrated — and kicked off in style — by his top foreign diplomat.

“Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship,” he said. “Later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana, formally, to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

“This is not merely symbolic,” he added. “With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people, we’ll have more personnel at our embassy, and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.”

All of which is surely true. However, not everyone is celebrating open diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is perhaps the most vocal critic of such a policy, released a statement today blasting the president's announcement.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” he intoned. “The administration's reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President's December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, [in] obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

“I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed,” he added. “It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.”