Washington Perspectives

‘New Chapter’ Begins as U.S. and Cuba Agree to Reopen Embassies

July 01, 2015

Scott M. Flicker, Hamilton Loeb, Charles Patrizia, Behnam Dayanim, Christine Ingram & Suhas Subramanyam

In what can be considered the  most concrete accomplishment to date in the effort to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations, President Obama announced that the United States and Cuba have agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations and that the two nations are reopening embassies in their respective capitals for the first time in more than 50 years.  The Cuban government is scheduled to reopen its embassy in the U.S. on July 20.  It remains unclear when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cuba to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana.
The announcement comes on the heels of significant progress in thawing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.  In May, the U.S. removed Cuba from the list of countries supporting terrorism.  In April, President Obama and President Raul Castro met in Panama, the first time the two leaders engaged in a substantive conversation in-person.

Even with this progress, hurdles remain in the thaw of U.S.-Cuba relations due to the embargo that the U.S. has imposed on Cuba.  During his announcement on Wednesday, President Obama once again called for the lifting of a trade embargo with Cuba. Ordinary trade and investment with Cuba will still be subject to restriction under the U.S. embargo, and complete normalization will take years. Lifting the embargo will require legislation, and there is no indication that Congress intends to confront the issue any time soon, with the highly polarized political environment now supercharged by the presidential ambitions of no fewer than three sitting Republican senators.

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