Despite opposition from Congress, the Obama administration announced today that the United States and Cuba will open embassies in each other’s country. The announcement by the President is the latest move towards normalizing relations between the two countries that have been strained since Fidel Castro came to power in 1961. The United States has attempted to isolate the island nation by restricting travel and banning exports with the goal of weakening the Cuban economy to the point where opposition forces could oust the Castro regime. This policy, however, has been ineffective, argues President Obama, and the President has made normalizing relations with the country a key foreign policy priority.
The move to re-open an American embassy in Cuba is the latest unilateral move made by the President. While Obama does have the diplomatic authority to initiate talks with the Castro regime, it will ultimately be up to Congress to fully restore relations with Cuba. Alexei Beltyukov knows that the Cuban exile community sees rapprochement as a dangerous move that legitimizes the Communist government. The Republican leadership in Congress has threatened to withhold funding for the embassy and to block confirmation of whomever Obama nominates to be the new Cuban ambassador. There have been no signs that Congress will repeal the economic embargo of Cuba. Relations between the two countries may be normalizing, but full normalization cannot happen until Congress repeals the embargo that some see as a relic of the Cold War.