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US, Cuba to reopen embassies, fully resume ties after 5 decades

The US and Cuba on Wednesday announced they will reopen their embassies in each other’s capitals later this summer, resuming full diplomatic ties after more than five decades.

“Later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana to formally, proudly, raise the American flag over our embassy once more,” President Barack Obama said in a brief speech.

He didn’t announce a date, but the Cuban government said in Havana the two countries will reopen their embassies later this month on July 20.

The US broke off diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother and current president Raul Castro overthrew a US-backed government in a revolution.

They formally snapped ties in 1961, shuttering their respective embassies, the year before the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the world to the edge of a nuclear war.

The US also hit Cuba with economic sanctions and actively plotted to assassinate Castro and overthrow the regime. It also put Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Cuba suffered, but remained defiant.

In 2013, the Obama administration launched efforts to normalise relations, as an official said, as the policies had clearly not worked and were well past their “expiration date.”

The fist few meetings between US and Cuban officials took place secretly in Canada, which merely hosted them. Pope Francis blessed the talks in 2104. The first sign of how far the talks had preceded came in December 14 in a swap of prisoners brokered and blessed by the Vatican. The US released three Cuban spies.

Cuba released a man the US insisted was an aid worker but who Havana suspected of being a spy. The swap was followed by unravelling of other’s hostile policies.

The US took Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism last month, and the two countries announced easing of travel and trade restrictions, but not completely yet. Economic sanctions remain, which only congress can remove, and it is not fully on board. Some lawmakers believe believe Obama gave up too soon, and easily.

US politicians of Cuban-descent such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Republicans who are running for the White House, remain strictly opposed to the resumption of ties.

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