The US and Cuba announced a historic shift in relations between the two countries yesterday, setting the stage for a restoration of ties between the close neighbors. The talks coincided with negotiations for the release of American Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for the past five years. Gross was returned to US soil yesterday in exchange for 3 Cuban agents held by the US.
While the announcement yesterday does not mean an end to the embargo, it is still a huge policy shift. The embargo was passed by Congress, and it will take action from the legislative branch to fully undo it. However, the US will be opening an embassy in Cuba, and more Americans will be allowed to visit the country.
Closer ties with Cuba could have significant impact on Mobile. The city’s port could play a huge role in trade between the two nations. Business leaders are already excited about the prospect of a new market opening up to them.
The US embargo against Cuba began on October 19th, 1960. The policy can only be described as an utter failure, as the Castro brothers still rule the island. Given that the US has ties with communist nations such as China, the stance towards Cuba has long been questionable. Ties likely would have been restored sooner, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, if not for the politics surrounding a large Cuban population in south Florida. The Sunshine State is a key swing state in presidential elections, and older Cuban Americans have opposed restoring ties with Cuba.
Reactions were split in both parties on the subject. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey slammed the deal, saying it rewarded the Castro regimes brutal behavior. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also came out against the deal. However, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, also a Republican, came out in favor of the plan. Paul said the embargo hasn’t worked, and that the deal was probably a good idea.