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Thread: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

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    Default Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Oh boy.

    U.S. seeks to normalize relations with Cuba

    U.S. contractor Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Havana, Cuba, in 2012.Gross was arrested in December 2009 and charged with undermining Cuba's government by bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally. (Photo: James L. Berenthal via AP)



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    Cuba has released an American prisoner it held for five years as part of an agreement to open talks about normalizing relations the United States and its long-time communist foe, Obama administration officials said Wednesday.
    The biggest shift in U.S-Cuban relationship since relations were severed in 1961 includes more trade between the nations, as well as a general easing of the U.S. embargo against Cuba and the prospect of a U.S. embassy in Havana, officials said.
    President Obama, who has indicated a desire for improved relations, plans to address the topic shorty after noon on Wednesday, officials said.
    In addition, Cuban television announced that President Raul Castro -- brother of communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro -- will speak at noon and make "an important announcement on US-Cuba relations."
    Alan Gross, arrested in 2009 on espionage charges for trying to provide Internet service to Cuban citizens, worked as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross' release is also part of an agreement that includes the release of three Cubans accused of spying and imprisoned in the United States, officials said.

    USA TODAY
    American contractor marks 5th year in Cuban prison



    "This morning, Alan Gross has departed Cuba on a US government plane bound for the United States," an administration official said in a statement. "Mr. Gross was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States."
    Officials spoke on condition of anonymity, pending the formal announcement by the president.
    News of the announcement drew criticism from anti-Castro Republicans, and some Democrats.
    Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a Democrat and the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government."
    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a Republican and a long-time critic of Cuba's government, said the U.S. and Cuba are talking about new trade and banking ties, and the prospect of a U.S. embassy in Havana.
    Rubio, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, and other Republicans said the Obama administration should demand democratic reform in Cuba before making any concessions.
    "I don't think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship" until Cuba changes, said Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida and another prospective Republican presidential candidate.
    Gross' imprisonment has been an obstacle to talks about improving U.S.-Cuban relations, including the possibility of easing or even ending the American economic embargo against Cuba.
    The administration has frequently called for Gross' release, most recently after his fifth year in prison passed earlier this month.
    "Alan Gross was arrested for his efforts to help ordinary Cuban citizens have greater access to information through the Internet," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a Dec. 3 statement. "The administration remains focused on securing Alan's freedom from a Cuban prison, and returning him safely to his wife and children, where he belongs."
    Citing concerns for Gross' health, Earnest said: "We remain deeply concerned for Alan's health, and reiterate our call for his release — the Cuban government's release of Alan on humanitarian grounds would remove an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba."
    Cuba arrested Gross for trying to set up an Internet access system while working as a subcontractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The communist state, which regards USAID programs as attempts to undermine its government, sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison.
    Anthony Blinken, the newly confirmed deputy secretary of state, told senators during his confirmation hearings that the Obama administration is interested in better relations with Cuba, but only after it released Gross.
    When Rubio asked about "chatter" that Obama planned to act unilaterally to change actions with Cuba, Blinken said: "The president has views on how to try to move, help move Cuba in a democratic direction, to help support people moving in that direction, and, you know, if he has an opportunity I'm sure that's something he would want to pursue. But it depends on Cuba and the actions that they take."
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/exclu...ry?id=27636767

    Alan Gross: Cuba Releases American After Five Years in Prison

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:06 AM ET
    By JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL Jim Avila More from Jim »
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    via Good Morning America






    Cuba Releases American Alan Gross After 5 Years In Prison
    Next Video Secretary Clinton in 2011: Alan Gross 'Unjustly Jailed'


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    Held for five years in Cuba, 65-year-old American contractor Alan Gross has been released from prison and is en route to U.S. soil, ABC News has learned.
    In a landmark humanitarian prisoner exchange to be announced by President Obama shortly at the White House, the agreement was reached following more than a year of secret back channel talks at the highest levels of both governments.
    Today’s release of Gross, who is said to be in poor physical condition, represents a first step toward normalizing relations with the neighbor just 90-miles off the Florida coast.

    Alan Gross: What You Need To Know About The American Freed From Cuban Jail


    Alan Gross, Jailed American In Cuba, Refuses Medical Treatment, Threatens Hunger Strike


    U.S. ‘In Conversations’ About Releasing American From Cuban Prison, Obama Says

    President Obama is expected to address Gross's release this afternoon.
    Gross was convicted of espionage by a Cuban court in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for United States Agency for International Development.
    The Cuban government accused him of being party to a U.S.-led plot to overthrow the government through an “Arab spring.”
    Following a recent visit, Gross’ attorney described him as nearly toothless, barely able to walk because of arthritis in his hips and blind in one eye. He has been kept in a small room at a military hospital 24 hours a day with two other Cuban political prisoners.
    Gross has refused medical and dental care or outside privileges, and declined visits and food from the U.S. Interest section in Havana. He had promised a hunger strike leading to death if not released by the end of this year.
    In a statement released earlier this month to mark the anniversary of Gross’ time in jail, Gross’s wife Judy said: “Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community.”
    In return for Gross, the United States has agreed to the humanitarian release of three Cuban agents convicted of espionage in a controversial trial that found them guilty of spying on anti-Castro groups in Miami, but not the U.S. government. All three were most recently held in North Carolina at a federal medical facility for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
    The humanitarian release is just the beginning of a promised new relationship with Cuba. The White House is indicating the beginning of new talks on everything from travel restrictions to eventual lifting of the Cuban embargo in place since John F. Kennedy was President.
    In an interview last week with Jorge Ramos for Fusion -- a sister network to ABC News -- President Obama said: “We’ve been in conversations about how we can get Alan Gross home for quite some time.”
    "We continue to be concerned about him. We think that he shouldn’t have been held in the first place,” Obama told Ramos. “With respect to Cuba generally, I’ve made very clear that the policies that we have in making remittances easier for Cuban families, and making it easier for families to travel, have been helpful to people inside Cuba... But the Cuban government still needs to make significant changes."
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Wrong direction folks. Wrong direction.
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    President will CALL for lifting of embargo today.

    Unfortunately, it's in the law that for that to happen, Cuba MUST become democratic. Cuba has recently taken over the Venezuelan government. Don't think they have accomplished anything close to a democracy yet.
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    I think this is not just a normalization with Cuba. I think this is something the President planned all along. Doing this will allow thousands, if not millions of Cubans to come in legally to the country now. Or just come in illegally.

    This is one more step in the complete socialization of America.

    As Alan Gross Is Released, U.S. and Cuba Start Talks on Normalizing Relations

    By PETER BAKER

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    President Obama greeted President Raúl Castro of Cuba in 2013 during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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    Alan Gross in 2012 as he served a prison sentence in Havana. Credit James L. Berenthal/Associated Press

    WASHINGTON — The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.
    In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis who hosted a final culminating meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.
    The contractor, Alan Gross, boarded an American government plane bound for the United States on Wednesday morning and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who have been in an American prison since 1981. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap but released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”
    In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to.
    “Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people,” the White House said in a written statement.
    President Obama plans to make a televised statement from the White House at noon to discuss the breakthrough, which could shape his legacy heading into his final two years in office.
    Mr. Gross’s sister, Bonnie Rubinstein, was “beyond ecstatic” at the news of his release, according to her husband, Harold. “We are extremely grateful that he’s on his way home,” Mr. Rubinstein said by telephone from Dallas. “It’s been a long ordeal.”
    Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Castro by telephone on Tuesday to finalize the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes, the first direct contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years, American officials said.
    American officials said Mr. Gross’s release was made on humanitarian grounds and not directly part of a prisoner swap. Instead, the United States traded the three Cuban spies for what officials called an “intelligence asset” who has been imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years.
    Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were severed in January 1961 after the rise of Fidel Castro and his Communist government. Mr. Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba about reestablishing diplomatic relations and to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, which it has been on since 1982, the White House said.
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    Officials said they would re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between the two governments within months. Mr. Obama will send an assistant secretary of state to Havana next month to lead an American delegation to the next round of talks on Cuban-American migration. The United States will also begin working with Cuba on issues like counternarcotics, environmental protection and human trafficking.
    The United States will also ease travel restrictions across all 12 categories currently envisioned under limited circumstances under American law, including family visits, official visits and journalistic, professional, educational and religious activities, public performances, officials said. Ordinary tourism, however, will remain prohibited.
    Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties and raise the level of remittances allowed to be sent to Cuban nationals to $2,000 every three months from the current limit of $500. Intermediaries forwarding remittances will no longer require a specific license from the government. American travelers will also be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.
    “This is being done because we believe the policy of the past has not worked and we believe the best way to bring democracy and prosperity to Cuba is through a different kind of policy,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call under White House ground rules that did not permit the official to be identified.
    But the official said the shift would not diminish the American focus on human rights in Cuba. “Our emphasis on human rights will be just as strong and we believe more effective under this policy,” the official said. “We will engage directly with the Cuban government on human rights.”
    Mr. Gross’s health has been failing. He has reportedly lost more than 100 pounds in prison and is losing vision in his right eye. He went on a nine-day hunger strike in April. After turning 65 in May, he told relatives that he might try to kill himself if not released soon.
    Three members of Congress were on the plane that picked up Mr. Gross in Cuba on Wednesday and accompanied him back to the United States, officials said: Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.
    Other Democratic and Republican lawmakers were sharply critical of the deal. “Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
    Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, considered a prospect for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, told The Associated Press: “This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba. But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

    Mr. Gross was in Cuba to deliver satellite telephone equipment that was capable of cloaking connections to the Internet when he was arrested in 2009. The Cuban authorities, who tightly control access to the Internet in their country, initially said he was a spy, and a court there convicted him of bringing in the devices without a permit as part of a subversive plot to “destroy the revolution.”


    Mr. Gross’s case drew increasing attention as his health deteriorated. He grew despondent and talked of suicide, and his wife, Judy Gross, and other supporters made urgent pleas for his release, but off-and-on diplomatic talks seemed to go nowhere.


    Cuba has often raised the case of three of its spies serving federal prison time in Florida, saying they had been prosecuted unjustly and urging that they be released on humanitarian grounds. State Department officials insisted that the cases were not comparable and that Mr. Gross was not an intelligence agent.


    Mr. Gross worked for Development Alternatives, of Bethesda, Md., and had traveled to more than 50 countries as an international development worker. The company had a $6 million contract with the United States Agency for International Development to distribute equipment that could get around Cuba’s Internet blockade, and Mr. Gross had made four previous trips to Cuba in 2009.


    The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the former New Mexico governor and cabinet secretary Bill Richardson and several members of Congress appealed for Mr. Gross’s release, along with Jewish advocacy groups in the United States.


    After visiting Mr. Gross in November, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a longtime advocate of loosening the 50-year-old American trade embargo with Cuba, said he was optimistic that the case would be resolved.


    American lawmakers who have drawn attention to Mr. Gross’s case celebrated his departure from Cuba. “Today, news of Alan’s release brings great relief to his loved ones and to every American who has called for his freedom,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas. “I admire Alan’s strength and that of his wife Judy, who has worked tirelessly for years to free Alan and reunite her family.”


    The American government has spent $264 million over the last 18 years, much of it through the development agency, in an effort to spur democratic change in Cuba. The agency said in November that it would cease the kinds of operations that Mr. Gross was involved in when he was arrested, as well as those, disclosed by The Associated Press, that allowed a contractor to set up a Twitter-like social network that hid its ties to the United States government.
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    I'm glad the guy isn't there any more, he got home. Good for getting him out.

    Bad on the way it was accomplished.

    Anyway, it's officially official now... resetting relations.

    Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations

    By PETER BAKER

    Continue reading the main story Video Play Video|2:18

    Obama on Change to U.S.-Cuba Relations


    Obama on Change to U.S.-Cuba Relations

    The president outlined the steps the United States would take to “end an outdated approach” and begin to normalize relations with Cuba.
    Video by AP on Publish Date December 17, 2014. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.
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    WASHINGTON — The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.
    In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.
    Click here for live updates.
    “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,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
    Photo

    Alan Gross, right, with his wife, Judy, as he arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday. Credit Senator Jeff Flake, via Reuters
    The contractor, Alan P. Gross, traveled on an American government plane to the United States late Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who had been in an American prison since 2001. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”
    In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.
    “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”
    Addressing critics of his new approach, he said he shares their commitment to freedom. “The question is how do we uphold that commitment,” he said. “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”
    Mr. Castro spoke simultaneously on Cuban television, taking to the airwaves with no introduction and announcing that he had spoken by telephone with Mr. Obama.
    “We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations,” he announced, emphasizing the release of the three Cubans. “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.”
    Only afterward did he mention the reopening of diplomatic relations. “This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved,” he said. “The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.” But, he added, “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.”
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    Mr. Castro acknowledged that Mr. Obama was easing the blockad through his executive authority and called on the United States government to go further to “remove the obstacles that impede or restrict the links between our peoples, the families and the citizens of both our countries.”
    Mr. Gross, accompanied by his wife, Judy, and three members of Congress, landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington shortly before noon. His sister, Bonnie Rubinstein, was “beyond ecstatic” at the news, according to her husband, Harold. “We are extremely grateful that he’s on his way home,” Mr. Rubinstein said by telephone from Dallas. “It’s been a long ordeal.”
    Secretary of State John Kerry landed at Andrews shortly afterward and met with Mr. Gross, his wife, other members of his family and his lawyer, Scott Gilbert. While the meeting was unplanned, a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said it gave Mr. Kerry a chance to “express his overwhelming happiness that Alan Gross is now free and reunited with his family on American soil.”
    Continue reading the main story Video Play Video|0:52

    Obama on Cuba’s Release of Alan Gross


    Obama on Cuba’s Release of Alan Gross

    President Obama discussed the release of the contractor, Alan P. Gross, who had been held in Cuba for five years, as well as the release of an intelligence agent held for nearly 20 years.
    Video by AP on Publish Date December 17, 2014. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.
    Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and a son of Cuban immigrants who may run for president in 2016, denounced the new policy as “another concession to a tyranny” and a sign that Mr. Obama’s administration is “willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works.”
    “This whole new policy is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” Mr. Rubio said. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to stay in power.”
    Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was also sharply critical. “Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” Mr. Menendez said in a written statement. “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
    Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Castro by telephone on Tuesday to finalize the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes, the first direct contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years, American officials said.
    Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were severed in January 1961 after the rise of Fidel Castro and his Communist government. Mr. Obama has instructed Mr. Kerry to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba about re-establishing diplomatic relations and to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, which it has been on since 1982, the White House said.
    Officials said they would re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between the two governments within months. Mr. Obama will send an assistant secretary of state to Havana next month for talks on Cuban-American migration and will drop objections to Cuban participation in a summit meeting of the Organization of American States. The United States will begin working with Cuba on issues like counternarcotics, environmental protection and human trafficking.
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    The United States will also ease travel restrictions across all 12 categories currently envisioned under limited circumstances in American law, including family visits, official visits, journalistic, professional, educational and religious activities, and public performances, officials said. Ordinary tourism, however, will remain prohibited.
    Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use debit cards in Cuba, and raise the level of remittances allowed to be sent to Cuban nationals to $2,000 every three months from the current limit of $500. Intermediaries forwarding remittances will no longer require a specific license from the government. American travelers will also be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.
    The Vatican hailed the agreement. “The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” it said in a statement.
    Mr. Gross’s health has been failing. He reportedly lost more than 100 pounds in prison and is losing vision in his right eye. He went on a nine-day hunger strike in April. After turning 65 in May, he told relatives that he might try to kill himself if not released soon.
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    Three members of Congress were on the plane that picked up Mr. Gross in Cuba on Wednesday and accompanied him back to the United States, officials said: Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.
    Mr. Gross was in Cuba to deliver satellite telephone equipment that was capable of cloaking connections to the Internet when he was arrested in 2009. The Cuban authorities, who tightly control access to the Internet in their country, initially said he was a spy, and a court there convicted him of bringing in the devices without a permit as part of a subversive plot to “destroy the revolution.”
    Mr. Gross’s case drew increasing attention as his health deteriorated. He grew despondent and talked of suicide, and his wife, Judy Gross, and other supporters made urgent pleas for his release, but off-and-on diplomatic talks seemed to go nowhere.
    Cuba has often raised the case of three of its spies serving federal prison time in Florida, saying they had been prosecuted unjustly and urging that they be released on humanitarian grounds. State Department officials insisted that the cases were not comparable and that Mr. Gross was not an intelligence agent.
    The three Cuban agents were part of the Red Avispa, or the Wasp Network, in Florida along with two other Cuban agents. Mr. Obama used his clemency power to commute their sentences, and they were flown to Cuba by the United States Marshals Service, according to the Justice Department.
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    The unnamed United States intelligence agent traded for them returned to American soil on Wednesday as well. That agent, described by the office of the director of national intelligence only as “a Cuban individual,” has been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly two decades.
    Officials said he was instrumental in identifying the Cuban agents who were sent back on Wednesday as well as information that led to the conviction of Ana Belen Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst; Walter Kendall Myers, a former State Department official; and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers.
    “In light of his sacrifice on behalf of the United States, securing his release from prison after 20 years – in a swap for three of the Cuban spies he helped put behind bars – is fitting closure to this Cold War chapter of U.S.-Cuban relations,” the intelligence director’s office said in a statement.
    Mr. Gross worked for Development Alternatives, of Bethesda, Md., and had traveled to more than 50 countries as an international development worker. The company had a $6 million contract with the United States Agency for International Development to distribute equipment that could get around Cuba’s Internet blockade, and Mr. Gross had made four previous trips to Cuba in 2009.
    The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the former New Mexico governor and cabinet secretary Bill Richardson and several members of Congress appealed for Mr. Gross’s release, along with Jewish advocacy groups in the United States.
    After visiting Mr. Gross in November, Mr. Flake and a longtime advocate of loosening the 50-year-old American trade embargo with Cuba, said he was optimistic that the case would be resolved.
    American lawmakers who have drawn attention to Mr. Gross’s case celebrated his departure from Cuba. “Today, news of Alan’s release brings great relief to his loved ones and to every American who has called for his freedom,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas. “I admire Alan’s strength and that of his wife Judy, who has worked tirelessly for years to free Alan and reunite her family.”
    The American government has spent $264 million over the last 18 years, much of it through the development agency, in an effort to spur democratic change in Cuba. The agency said in November that it would cease the kinds of operations that Mr. Gross was involved in when he was arrested, as well as those, disclosed by The Associated Press, that allowed a contractor to set up a Twitter-like social network that hid its ties to the United States government.
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Not at all surprised...

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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Oh, look, another bow. What a fucking Beta Gamma.

    How long before we hand over Guantanamo?

    Hope Putin enjoys his new naval base...

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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    We can't hand over Guantanamo.

    Not unless.....

    Facts:
    The base, sometime referred to as "Gitmo," is located in southeastern Cuba, on the coast of Guantánamo Bay.


    The U.S. has been leasing the 45 square miles that the base sits on since 1903. The base shares a 17-mile border with Cuba.


    The U.S. pays the Cuban government approximately $4,085 a year for the lease. The last time time Cuba accepted the payment was in 1959.


    The lease can only be terminated by mutual agreement.


    Approximately 6,000 service members, civilians and contractors work at the base.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Alright...

    This whole Cuba thing has me seriously bothered.

    Let's look at why.

    1) Castro was a communist. He and his buddies took over that island in the 1950s.

    2) Cuba has been, since taken over by the Spaniards originally, full of Spanish "thinking" - which includes corruption in government and business, insurrection against whomever is running the government at the time, and general chaos.

    3) Cuba was a center for the Spanish-American War.

    4) In 1902 - we basically "owned" Cuba. Then handed it over to the "Cuban Government".

    5) 1925 American recognized Cuban independence from us.

    6) During WWI Cuba declared war against Germany, essentially on our side.

    7) in 1933 the Communists began to rise.

    8) In 1940s Batista began his rise, as does corruption.

    9) 1953-1958 Castro begins his rise. Castro was a lawyer. He tried to use the law to bring down the existing government. Didn't work. He used armed force. Didn't work. Thousands fled. Castro fled. Government was in exile (Batista was still there and in control, he wouldn't leave, US decided to impose "sanctions".)

    10) Castro started a "purge" killing rivals.

    11) After this the US cracks down after telling Castro he could remain in power if Cuba remained in the sphere of influence of the United States. Didn't work.


    In 1960 a ship was destroyed, allegedly by the CIA. Whatever relations were left failed.

    Of course this is a VERY short and extremely summarized history. But Cuba has been stuck under sanctions of the US for 50 years. Cubans who were educated and fled to America were against Castro. Wanted him out. Wanted to HELP get him out. Bay of Pigs anyone? Russia became involved in the 60s, nukes, Cuban missile crisis.

    Basically... the Cuban people are innocent, and stuck bystanders of this entire thing. The Cuban government and the US government have been at odds over who is in charge (Castro). His brother is in charge now (and served as a general in the 1959 Revolution) so in reality, things have not changed much.

    Now... step forward to today.

    We have a Socialist President who believes (and stated in 2009) that Cuba and the US should normalize relations, we should relax the thumb screws. Give a communist country a chance to grow.

    Obama is playing chess with us and with the Cuban people. He is hoping to pull them his way because he's a Socialist. After all he and Castro and his brother are ALL Marxists, so why NOT normalize. It's only a matter of time before America goes the way of Cuba. In Obama's mind.

    When you have the power of the United States military at your beck and call, but detest the use of such power as "evil" and have coddled the commies, bowed to the Muslims and Commie Chinese and you've got the Unionized manufacturing industry in American "on your side" it's little wonder this egomaniac can't see why all of this was done originally.

    Pawns folks.

    Now... what this all comes down to is simple. The people of Cuba DO have the right to exist, like anyone else. However, the government does not. And it won't change. While we'll let Americans visit now, and even Cubans visit here, it won't change either government.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    50 years of Sanctions have done exactly what to Cuba? I think modern culture would "rot" Cuba from the inside. Besides, the rest of the world works with Cuba, I see no reason to continue this nonsense. Maybe some Cubans would stay home.

    Finally...I want some legal Cohibas.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    LOL

    I wasn't really saying I was AGAINST what has happened. I'm saying that there's a deeper thing going on here than just opening relations with Cuba.

    We have relations with Russia and China anyway. Why not Cuba?

    On the other hand it was the WAY this was accomplished. In secret. No public involvement, no Congressional involvement. It was CONGRESS that placed the sanctions. No a President.

    A President can't arbitrarily remove them.
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Companion Threads:



    Obama’s Bailout for Communist Dictators


    December 18, 2014 by Daniel Greenfield 7 Comments



    The Soviet Union did not have to fall. If Carter had won a second term and Mondale had succeeded him, the Communist dictatorship might have received the outside help it needed to survive.

    And we would still be living under the shadow of the Cold War.

    Carter couldn’t save the Soviet Union, but he did his best to save Castro, visiting Fidel and Raul in Cuba where the second worst president in American history described his meeting with Castro as a greeting among “old friends”.

    Raul Castro called Carter “the best of all U.S. presidents.”

    Obama’s dirty deal with Raul will make the worst president in American history, Castro’s new best friend.

    Carter couldn’t save Castro, but Obama did. This was not a prisoner exchange. This was a Communist bailout.

    Obama boasted that he would increase the flow of money to Cuba from businesses, from bank accounts and from trade. When he said, “We’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba”, that was his real mission statement.

    The Castro regime is on its last legs. Its sponsors in Moscow and Caracas are going bankrupt due to failing energy prices. The last hope of the Butcher of Havana was a bailout from Washington D.C.

    And that’s exactly what Obama gave him.

    Obama has protected the Castros from regime change as if Communist dictators are an endangered species.

    From the beginning, Obama put his foreign policy at the disposal of Havana when he backed Honduran leftist thug Manuel Zelaya’s attempt to shred its Constitution over the protests of the country’s Congress and Supreme Court. And its military, which refused to obey his illegal orders.

    Obama’s support for an elected dictator in Honduras should have warned Americans that their newly elected leader viewed men like Zelaya favorably and constitutions and the separation of powers between the branches of government unfavorably. It also showcased his agenda for Latin America.

    His embrace of Raul Castro brings that agenda out into the open even if he still insists in wrapping it in dishonest claims about “freedom” and “openness” while bailing out a Communist dictatorship.

    Obama began his Castro speech with a lie, declaring, “The United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.”

    The Cuban people have no relationship with the United States because they have no free elections and no say in how they are governed. The only Cubans who have a relationship with the United States fled here on rafts.

    Obama did not make his dirty deal with the Cuban people. He made it in a marathon phone call with the Cuban dictator.

    When Obama claims that his deal with Raul Castro represents a new relationship with the people of Cuba, he is endorsing a Communist dictatorship as the legitimate representative of the Cuban people.

    This is a retroactive endorsement of the Castro regime and its entire history of mass murder and political terror. Obama is not trying to “open up” Cuba as he claimed. He likes Cuba just the way it is; Communist and closed.

    Obama did not consult the Cuban people, just as he did not consult the American people. He disregarded the embargo, Congress, the Constitution and the freedom of the Cuban people.

    His dictatorial disregard of the embargo, which can only be eliminated by Congress, in order to support a dictatorship, is a disturbing reminder that the road he is walking down leads to a miserable tyranny.

    Cuban-American senators from both parties have been unanimous in condemning the move. These senators are the closest thing to Cuban elected officials.
    But Obama disregarded Senator Menendez, a man of his own party, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz.

    Instead Obama chose to stand with Raul Castro and his Communist dictatorship.

    Obama tried to whitewash his crime by exploiting Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was imprisoned and abused by the Castro regime, as if the release of an American hostage justified helping the men holding him hostage stay in power. And the media, which was reprinting Castro’s propaganda claiming that Gross’ imprisonment was justified, is busy now pretending that it cares about his release.

    He had similarly tried to whitewash his Taliban amnesty by using Bergdahl and his parents as cover. If a deal is struck with Iran, the release of Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini or Amir Hekmati will almost certainly be used to divert attention from the fact that their own government has collaborated with the thugs and terrorists who took them hostage.

    Even though Obama criticized European countries for paying financial ransoms to ISIS, his own ransom paid to the Castros is worth countless billions. And the blood money pouring out of American banks into the Castro regime will encourage other dictatorships to take Americans hostage as leverage for obtaining concessions from the United States. Americans abroad will suffer for Obama’s dirty deal.

    No European country recognized ISIS in exchange for the release of hostages. Only Obama was willing to go that far with Cuba, not only opening diplomatic and economic relations, but promising to remove the Communist dictatorship from the list of state sponsors of terror despite the fact that the last State Department review found that Cuba continued to support the leftist narco-terrorists of FARC.

    FARC had taken its own American hostages who were starved and beaten, tortured and abused.

    Now Obama has given in to the demand of a state sponsor of terror to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for releasing a hostage.

    Obama has sent a message to Iran that the best way to secure a deal is by wrapping it in an American hostage. He has told ISIS that we do negotiate with terrorists. And he has once again demonstrated that his vaunted “smart power” is nothing more than appeasement wrapped in excuses and lies.

    But Obama did not act to help Alan Gross. He did not even act because he genuinely thought that diplomatic relations would open up Cuba. In his speech, Obama used the claim commonly put forward by Castro apologists that the very fact that the Castros were still in power proved that sanctions had failed.
    Yet the lack of sanctions against Cuba by the rest of the world certainly did not usher in the new spirit of openness that Obama is promising. Rewarding dictators with cash never frees a nation.

    This was not about saving Alan Gross. It was about saving Raul Castro.

    Obama and Castro are both weakened leaders of the left. Like the Castros, Obama has lost international influence and his own people have turned on him. The only thing he has left is unilateral rule.

    If Obama saw something of his own hopes and aspirations to engage in a populist transformation of the United States in Manuel Zelaya or Hugo Chavez, his horizons have narrowed down to those of Raul Castro. His ability to remake the world has vanished and the American people are revolting against his collectivization efforts. They want open health care markets, free speech and honest government.

    Obama can no longer remake the Middle East, he certainly can’t bring the Soviet Union back from the dead, but he could still bail out Raul Castro and maintain Communist rule in Cuba.

    No matter how often Obama claims to be “on the right side of history”, the Castros are a living reminder that to be on the left is to be on the wrong side of history.

    Obama did not want to see the “Berlin Wall” fall in Havana on his watch. After watching his own grip on the United States collapse, he did not want to see the left fail again.

    We can never know how history might have been different if Carter had gotten a second term or if Mondale had replaced Reagan. But Obama’s deal with Castro reminds us that the end of the USSR was not inevitable. It happened because we stood up against the tyrants in the Kremlin and their useful idiots in the White House.

    A good man like Reagan could make a difference by bringing down the USSR. A bad man like Obama can make a difference by keeping Cuba Communist.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

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    We’ll so weaken your
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    like overripe fruit into our hands."



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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Quote Originally Posted by American Patriot View Post
    We can't hand over Guantanamo.

    Not unless.....






    Quote Originally Posted by Malsua View Post
    50 years of Sanctions have done exactly what to Cuba? I think modern culture would "rot" Cuba from the inside. Besides, the rest of the world works with Cuba, I see no reason to continue this nonsense. Maybe some Cubans would stay home.

    Finally...I want some legal Cohibas.
    Sanctions have contained Cuba. Just look at pictures from there. The cars look like they belong in museums and some of their buildings are still battle damaged from the revolution.

    On the other hand, from what I've read, Raul Castro is apparently a realist and realizes that Cuba can't continue down the same Communist path and is instead intent on turning it into more of a European/Chinese/Russian Socialist economy.

    That's not to say he won't be very friendly with Russia and China of course. I doubt Russia's rebuild of Lourdes or oil exploration will be put on hold any time soon.

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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Smart ass.


    hahahaha
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations







    a

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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Someone explain this to me...

    Opening trade. Allowing tourism. But not allowing general tourism.

    WTF does that mean?


    U.S. rolls out new Cuba rules on trade, travel

    By Anna Yukhananov and Krista Hughes
    WASHINGTON Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:44am EST


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    Cuba's President Raul Castro addresses the audience during the National Assembly in Havana December 20, 2014.
    Credit: Reuters/Enrique De La Osa










    (Reuters) - The United States rolled out a sweeping set of measures on Thursday to significantly ease the half-century-old embargo against Cuba, opening up the country to expanded travel, trade and financial activities.


    Defying hardline critics in Congress, President Barack Obama made good on a commitment he made a month ago to begin loosening some U.S. economic sanctions against the communist-ruled island as part of an effort to end decades of hostility.


    The Treasury and Commerce Departments issued a package of new rules that will allow U.S. exports of telecommunications, agricultural and construction equipment, permit expanded travel to Cuba and authorize some kinds of banking relations.


    It was the first tangible U.S. step to implement the changes Obama pledged on Dec. 17 when he and Cuban President Raul Castro announced plans to restore diplomatic relations between the old Cold War foes.


    "Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people," U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.


    The new regulations, which take effect on Friday, will allow Americans to travel to Cuba for any of a dozen specific reasons, including family visits, education and religion, without first obtaining a special license from the U.S. government as was previously the case.


    Though general tourism will still be banned, those U.S. travelers who do visit will be allow bring home small amounts of the Cuban cigars that are highly rated by aficionados.


    The revamped rules will also make it easier for U.S. companies to export mobile phone devices and software as well as to provide Internet services in Cuba. U.S. airlines will be permitted to expand flights to the Caribbean island.


    In an expansion of remittances allowed, Americans will now be able to send up to $8,000 to Cuba a year, up from the $2,000 previously permitted, and bring $10,000 with them when they travel to the country. They will also be able to use credit and debit cards in Cuba.


    In addition, there will be a change in the definition of “cash in advance” payment required by Cuban buyers, which could help a variety of business interests, most notably U.S. agriculture, in gaining greater access to Cuban markets.


    The announcement was made after the Obama administration said on Monday that Castro's government had fulfilled its promise to free 53 political prisoners as agreed with the U.S. government. It also comes a week before high-level U.S.-Cuba talks in Havana aimed at starting to normalize ties.


    'SIGNIFICANT STEP'


    Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, called the steps a "significant step" in delivering on Obama's new direction on Cuba. In announcing the shift in December, the president said that decades of trying to force change in Cuba by isolating the island had not worked.


    "We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans," he said.


    But Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and forceful critic of the policy shift, said it would hurt ordinary Cubans.


    "This is a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against U.S. national interests in Latin America and beyond," he said in a statement.


    While Obama is using executive powers to poke holes in trade barriers with Cuba, only Congress can lift the longstanding embargo. With Republicans controlling the Senate and the House, there is little chance of that happening any time soon.


    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will hold high-level negotiations in Havana on Jan. 21-22 aimed at starting the normalization process. The discussions will include efforts to reopen embassies in both countries.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations


    Hawkish Russian Emissary to Visit Cuba’s Leaders

    December 19, 2014

    Just days after President Obama announced a historic thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, one of Russia’s most hawkish emissaries was set to arrive in Havana on Friday to meet with Cuba’s leadership.

    The emissary, Dmitri O. Rogozin, the outspoken deputy prime minister whose portfolio includes Russia’s weapons and space programs, had already panned the United States’ supposed change of heart toward Cuba as just a calculated change in tactics.

    “Now they will suffocate them in their embrace,” Mr. Rogozin said Thursday on Twitter during a tour through Latin America, where he was negotiating economic and weapons contracts in Brazil, Venezuela and other countries.

    There is little trust in the benevolence of American foreign policy in Moscow now, largely because of the perceived hand of the State Department in Ukraine’s revolution in February. A well-traveled but still popular joke asks why there has not been a revolution in Washington. The answer: There is no American Embassy there.

    Discounting avowed hawks like Mr. Rogozin, analysts and diplomats in Moscow met Mr. Obama’s decision with an approval that is rare in the current political climate, where a win for America is often seen as a loss for Russia.

    “My understanding is that the official reaction was neutral-positive,” said Sergei A. Karaganov, a prominent Russian political scientist and dean of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

    Russia has long pushed for the United States to recognize Cuba and in taking that step, “one could only applaud Mr. Obama, whether you like him or not,” Mr. Karaganov added with a chuckle.

    But with that approval came a message that has implications for relations between the United States and Russia: Sanctions do not work.

    With the United States declaring its intention to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin, and Western sanctions contributing to the recent havoc in the Russian economy, it was a message that the Foreign Ministry in Moscow delivered bluntly on Thursday even as it lauded the decision on Cuba.

    “It is characteristic that the president of the United States admitted the lack of results of many years of attempts to ‘isolate’ Cuba,” the Foreign Ministry said in a 154-word statement. “It remains to hope that Washington will soon recognize the fruitlessness of the similar pressure of sanctions on other countries.”

    That was repeated on Russian television by anchors and pundits, who also played down concerns that Russia’s influence in Latin America could be diminished by the United States.

    Mr. Putin wrote off $32 billion in Cuba’s Soviet-era debt this year, earning good will that will pay future dividends, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and the head of an influential policy group, said on state television.

    “With the country emerging from isolation, Russia can now count on its active cooperation,” Mr. Lukyanov said.

    Alexander Baunov, a former diplomat and world affairs columnist for the Slon news website, said that Mr. Rogozin’s diplomatic writ would be to sow doubt about the United States’ intentions.

    “His mission is to be informed,” Mr. Baunov said in a telephone interview. “And he will try to convince them that they not hurry to get too close to America, because they will fool you.”

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    Default Re: Cuba and US to "normalize" relations

    Russian spy ship in Havana ahead of US delegation’s historic visit

    Published time: January 21, 2015 09:54
    Edited time: January 21, 2015 11:07 Get short URL


    A Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov at the port in Havana, January 20, 2015. (Reuters / Stringer)

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    Cuba, Intelligence, Navy, Politics, Russia, SciTech, Security, USA, Vessels

    The Russian Navy’s intelligence collection ship, the Viktor Leonov, has docked in Havana just a day before the arrival of an American delegation. The Russian warship is moored in open view of a pier usually used for cruise ships.

    The ship’s visit, unannounced by the Cuban authorities, comes as the US and Cuba are attempting to restore diplomatic ties broken in 1961.

    The Americans will conduct the first official negotiations with the Cuban leadership in more than half a century.

    The Viktor Leonov is part of Russia’s Northern Fleet and is fitted with a wide range of intelligence equipment, a crew of 220 and high-tech electronics.
    “It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” a US defense official told AFP.

    In 2014, the Viktor Leonov called at Havana at least twice, in February and March, and those visits were also unannounced. In April, the ship was spotted operating along the US East Coast, in close proximity to a nuclear missile submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia, and other American military facilities in the area.

    The Soviet Union and subsequently Russia used to have a huge signal intelligence center (SIGINT facility) in Cuba’s Lourdes, located a mere 250km from continental USA.

    In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied media reports that Russia was planning to reopen the SIGINT facility in Lourdes.

    READ MORE: Putin denies reopening of US-targeting listening post in Cuba

    Embargo remains in place


    The high-level talks begin in Havana on Wednesday. The US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson is leading the American delegation, with Cuba's head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, heading the Cuban negotiators.

    READ MORE: Obama’s Cuba decision: ‘US tries to move Russian allies away’

    The talks will aim to elaborate a roadmap for putting diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US back on track, normalizing ties and re-opening embassies.

    The US authorities announced plans to allow American companies to offer their services in Cuba, creating infrastructure on the island and improve communication links with mainland US. America is also likely to unblock the personal accounts of Cuban citizens and companies frozen in American banks. Foreign vessels that dock off Cuba's coasts will be allowed to call at US ports.

    Some revisions to the decades-old embargoes between the United States and Cuba came into effect on January 16, implementing major changes to the long-standing trade and travel restrictions between the neighboring nations.

    READ MORE: New US-Cuba trade, travel rules to take effect Friday, 1st steps to end embargo

    New policies, announced by the Obama administration on Thursday this week, are expected to allow American travelers within 12 categories to travel to Cuba without applying for specialized visas, alleviating restrictions that have largely excluded the US public from the island for more than 50 years.
    However, the US embargo placed on Cuba in 1962 will remain in place until the US Congress votes to lift it.

    READ MORE: Cuba thaw: A chance to break out from the yoke of US sanctions?

    In a statement ahead of the talks, Cuba's Foreign Ministry noted that ties between the two countries could only be normalized when Washington drops the unilateral sanctions against Havana.

    Cuba’s official Granma newspaper acknowledged that “certain aspects of the blockade against Cuba are changing.”

    But they stressed the measures announced by the US authorities are “just a step in a right direction,” and there is still “a long way to go,” the newspaper said, as quoted by Itar-TASS.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    We’ll so weaken your
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    until you’ll
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    like overripe fruit into our hands."



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