Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama’s plan to open relations with Cuba in 13 points

    Obama’s plan to open relations with Cuba in 13 points
    BY LARISA EPATKO December 17, 2014 at 12:00 PM EDT

    Updated at noon EST | President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the
    U.S. is making historic changes in its dealings with Cuba, because
    decades of U.S. isolation of the communist nation have had little effect.

    “It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to
    accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a
    democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” President Obama said from the
    White House. “Though this policy has been rooted in the best of
    intentions, it has had little effect — today, as in 1961, Cuba is
    governed by the Castros and the Communist party.”

    Cuban President Raul Castro made a simultaneous televised announcement
    about the breakthrough to his citizens.

    Today’s announced changes to normalize relations with Cuba include:
    – The State Department will start talks with Cuba to reestablish
    diplomatic relations, which were severed in 1961.
    – Reestablish an embassy in Cuba’s capital Havana
    – Work with Cuba on improving human rights and democratic reforms, along
    with issues such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental
    protection and human trafficking
    – Travel restrictions will ease for all 12 existing categories: family
    visits, official government business, journalism, professional research,
    educational activities, religious activities, public performances and
    athletic competitions, support for Cuban people, humanitarian projects,
    private foundations and educational institutions, exchange of
    information, and certain export transactions. – President Obama had
    lifted some travel restrictions between the two countries in 2013.
    – Raise the level of money people can send to Cuban nationals from $500
    to $2,000 per quarter, and donations for humanitarian efforts and
    private business development will no longer need a special license
    – Expand commercial sales and exports from the U.S. of building
    materials, goods used by private sector entrepreneurs, and agricultural
    equipment for farmers
    – Allow Americans to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no
    more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined
    – Allow U.S. financial institutions to open accounts at Cuban financial
    institutions to ease transactions
    – Permit travelers in Cuba to use U.S. credit and debit cards
    Update communication devices, software, hardware and services in Cuba
    – On sanctions, unblock accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who
    have relocated outside of Cuba, permit U.S. participation in
    third-country meetings related to Cuba, and allow foreign vessels to
    enter the U.S. after engaging in humanitarian trade with Cuba
    – Discuss maritime boundary issues with Cuban and Mexican governments,
    including in the Gulf of Mexico
    – Review Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism

    Pope Francis offered his “warm congratulations” to the United Stats and
    Cuba. The Vatican had hosted the two sides for meetings to bolster
    relations in October.

    Earlier Wednesday came word that Cuba released American Alan Gross, who
    had been held in prison for five years, and in exchange the U.S. freed
    three Cubans jailed in Florida on charges including conspiracy.

    Source: Obama’s plan to open relations with Cuba in 13 points –