The United States will re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. President Obama made the announcement this morning, saying the decision was a “choice between the future and the past.”
For the first time in 50 years, the countries will operate embassies in their respective capitals.
The decision is the latest step taken by the Obama administration to thaw U.S.-Cuba relations. The shift started last December, when President Obama loosened travel restrictions to the island nation. There are now 12 different criteria for authorized travel.
William Leogrande is a professor at American University and author of the book, “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.” He tells Take Two that today’s announcement is a good step, but pushing further changes through congress will be difficult. “The biggest challenge is going to be Republican opposition to whoever President Obama nominates to be the ambassador to Cuba,” he says. “Senators Rubio and Menendez have already said that they’re prepared to hold up any nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But the actual opening of diplomatic relations is, constitutionally, a power of the president, so that’s going to go forward whether congress likes it or not.”
While the two nations are working closer now than at any point in recent history, the embargo is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. “I think it will be a few years,” Leogrande says. “We’re going to have to wait until after the presidential election and the election of a new congress in order to lift the embargo. [That’s] going to take a while. But it won’t be long before the U.S. and Cubans are traveling back and forth in a relatively free and open way.”
Press the play button above to hear professor William Leogrande talk to Take Two.