In what he called a “new chapter” of U.S.-Cuban relations, President Obama on Wednesday announced that the nations are to reopen embassies in each others’ capital cities.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said, “Our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people; but there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” the president continued. “When something isn’t working, we can and should change.”

This comes as the most significant step so far in ending half a century of discord between the two countries, as The New York Times reports:

In announcing it, the president was cementing a central element of his foreign policy legacy that has engendered stiff resistance in Congress, particularly among Republicans and Cuban-American lawmakers, and is likely to become a flash point in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Obama called on the Republican-led Congress on Wednesday to drop its opposition to reconciling with Cuba, renewing calls for the lifting of a travel and trade embargo that has grown stricter over the years as successive administrations and members of Congress have taken a hard line against Havana.

Diplomatic relations will be officially restored on July 20, according to letters exchanged by top American and Cuban officials at the State Department on Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry is to travel to Havana in the coming weeks, Mr. Obama said, “to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

Read the rest here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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