If you haven't been living under a rock lately, you know something really big is going on between the United States and Cuba.
Apparently, after almost five decades of hostility and embargo, the two countries have taken an historic step toward negotiations.
The development is really important for people of both the nations, but it can become a little confusing with the news being updated nearly every hour of the day. Therefore, here are some answers to some of the most basic questions you might have on the issue.
So, what’s the deal?
After almost 18 months of secret talks, President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro agreed on easing diplomatic ties that were severed since 1961. By “easing” they essentially mean opening embassies in each other's countries and relaxing some trade restrictions.
Why were relations strained between the two countries, anyway?
Relations between the two countries became tense during the Cold War when a Marxist revolutionary, Fidel Castro, came into power in a 1959 rebellion against Cuba's pro-American dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
Castro, who was extremely anti-U.S., nationalized all American-owned businesses on the Caribbean island, which eventually resulted in an embargo, or powerful economic sanctions, by the then-U.S. government. It was a move which prohibited almost all trade and travel between the two countries.
Wait, so Cuba has dictatorship issues?
Fortunately, Fidel Castro doesn’t rule Cuba anymore. But his successor, Raul, isn’t much different, apparently. For starters, they're brothers.
Cubans living in exile refer to Raul as “a brutal dictator who locks up dissenters in gulag-like jails, snuffs out political discourse and condemns his people to socialist poverty.”
Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to be a problem to Obama anymore.
Because Cuba just released an American prisoner.
Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor, was serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for smuggling satellite equipment onto the island.
He was released last Wednesday after five years of imprisonment – a move being called the primary cause of thawing relations between the two countries.
Cool. Will Cuba and U.S. become BFFs now?
Of course not.
Although under the new agreement trade embargo will be eased – the tourist travel ban will still be in place (though travel restrictions for journalists, medical staff, educators and the like are much eased.) Also, Cuba’s “horrendous” human rights record is going to be a huge problem.
Human rights activists welcomed the latest deal between U.S. and Cuba but added that “the Communist government has much to answer for, including a denial of freedom of speech, the banning of independent labor unions and a lack of fair and competitive elections.”
Apart from this, Cuban President Raul Castro has made it clear that he will not show any flexibility as far as his style of governance is concerned.
''We can't pretend that by improving ties with the Unites States, Cuba will renounce the ideas for which it has fought for more than a century,'' he stated in an interview.
Considering these facts, it will be (way) too early to assume that Cuba and America are going to have friendly relations anytime soon.