US and Cuba normalizing relations

Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro

In a dramatic move marked by the exchange of US and Cuban intellegence agents, the Obama administration and the Cuban government have decided to resume deplomatic relations that were severed in January 1961 after the rise of Fidel Castro and his Communist government.

President 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.

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.

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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