US and Cuba to Normalize Diplomatic Relations

President Obama: U.S. and Cuba to reopen embassies on July 20. Sec. of State John Kerry will travel to Havana to formally reopen U.S. embassy.
17:11 | 07/01/15

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Transcript for US and Cuba to Normalize Diplomatic Relations
Along US freeze with Cuba is about to get one step closer. To a complete thought in just a few moments President Obama will announce that the US and Cuba are going to reopen their embassies. You were closed after the Cuban revolution in 1959. Anti Hernandez in New York this two countries. Also resumed formal diplomatic relations ABC's White House correspondent Jim model of broke the story back in December. That the US was going to normalize relations with Cuba and he joins us now hello Gian. Good morning time this is an historic day one of the many steps on the way to normalization of rulers of relations between the United States in Cuba. As you say this is the establishment of diplomatic relations today in Cuba already. The ambassador the end the the man who's in charge at the embassy now in in the united state in Cuba. Delivered a letter of money that to the foreign minister in the in Cuba saying that the that the amount of diplomatic relations were formally. Met. And now they're waiting now these opening actual opening of the embassies which are scheduled to begin July 20. Regiment in May the White House taught you bought all the state terrorism list what happens between now and then. To get these embassies. A lot of negotiations about what it would mean if the embassies were open. The United States intent and then allowing its ambassador to travel throughout the island and meet with whomever he or she wants that was a sticking point with the Cubans there's been some progress on that I'm told. On the Cuban side they were upset about. The United States continuing to fund anti. Regime a measures inside Cuba. This is to be training some. And journalists there and in in separate from the government that was a sticking point for the Cubans not sure how much progress has been made on that. But we do know that they've made enough progress to finally announced that there's going to be formal. Relations here. So what does it mean now regret I have US embassy only running in Cuba vice Versa here. What does that mean that upper people in Cuba or people in the United States hoping to visit that country or start a business and. But largely it's a symbol the symbol that there are that the two countries are talking and already. The Cuban citizens the president comes out. Are beginning to talk about lifting the embargo. And that's what there is most important item for them or hear about it. We love street. More than 54 years ago. At the height of the Cold War the United States closed its embassy in Havana. Today I can announce the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations would be Republic of Cuba. And reopen embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people. And begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americans. When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961. I don't think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before reopening. After all our nations are separated by only ninety miles and they're 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 door opens. The United States that men clinging to a policy that was not work it. Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people. Our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly heavy ops that a fact. Cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere. The progress that we mark today as yet another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn't working we can and will change. Last December I announced that the United States and Cuba decide to take steps to normalize our relationship. It's part of that effort president Raul Castro and I've directed our teams to negotiate the re establishment of embassies. Since then our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal. And later this summer secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally. It probably raise the American flag over our embassy once more. This is not merely symbolic. What this change we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We'll have more personnel at our embassy and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the aisle. No include the Cuban government civil society. And ordinary Cubans were reaching for a better life. On issues of common interest like counter terrorist disaster response and development. We will find new ways to cooperate with Q. And I've been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences. Now include America's enduring support for universal values like freedom of speech and assembly and the ability to access information. We will not have straight to speak out when we see actions the contradict those values. Our bright strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement. That's why we've are taken steps to allow for greater travel. People to people in commercial ties between the United States and Cuba and we will continue to do so point four. Since December we've already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy you heard. That expressed by president Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday. Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement. One Cuban said I prepared for this all my wife. And others said that this is like a shot of oxygen. When Cuban teacher put it simply. We are neighbors. Now we can be friends. Here in the United States we've seen that same enthusiasts. Are Americans want to travel to Cuba American businesses want to invest in Cuba. American colleges and universities that what partner with you. Above all Americans want to get to know their neighbors to the south and through that engagement. We also help the Cuban people improve their own lives. When Cuban American look forward to reuniting families and opening lines of communications. Another put it bluntly. You can't hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past. That's what this is about the choice between the future and the past. Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it's time for congress to say. I've called on congress to take steps to lift the embargo the prevents Americans from traveling or doing business in Cuba. We've already seen members from both parties begin that work. After all why should Washington stand in the way of our own people. Yes there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation. But it's long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn't work that has worked for fifty years. Shuts America out of Cuba's future and only makes life worse for the Cuban people so I've asked congress to listen to Cuban people. Disagree American people. But in the words. A proud Cuban American Carlos group yet us. Recently came out against the policy of the past. Saying I wonder if the Cubans who have. Have to stand in line for most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana son feel that this approach is helpful to them. Of course nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement through our embassy our businesses and most of all through our people is the best way to advance our interest and support. For democracy and human rights. Time again America's demonstrated a part of our leadership of the world's our capacity to change. It's what inspires the world's reach for something better. Your guard might seem impossible to the United States would once again be raising our flag. Stars and stripes over an embassy in that. This is what change looks like. In January of 1961. The year I was born when president Eisenhower announced. The termination of our relations were cute way said it is my hope and my conviction that it is in the not too distant future. There will be possible for this sort friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort. Well it took awhile but I believe that time has come. And a better future lies ahead. Thank you very much and I want to thank so my team. Who worked diligently to make this happen they're here that always get acknowledged. We're really proud of them. Her work. All right President Obama announcing the opening. July 20. Of the United States embassy. In Cuba let's go back to be he senior national correspondent Jim mob mullah. Didn't the president saying the best way to spread our values and to support them is through engagement though many Cuban Americans and some in congress. Not likely to agree with the president honest. That's true time there is opposition much of it is cut doesn't back senator in Florida where many of the Cuban exiles live. Even even in polls and can in South Florida have shown that. The support for the embargo has dropped. Dramatically. And in fact across the country of course it and support the embargo is way down. And as the president pointed out among those who are opposed in the congress there of course is there are some problems Marco Rubio candidate for president. Senator from Florida. Is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he will have a big voice into whether or not an ambassador. Will beep approved. Here by the by the senate he's saying no. Jeb Bush candidate for president also from Florida making sending out tweets already saying that the president is making a mistake in network. Conceding to Cuba conceding to the Castro's. So there still remains at some of some objections. And in fact the the president has done about all he can. Think through executive action at this point. Congress has to act now the group in order to fully open Cuba and fully. Have normal relations with Cuba by lifting the embargo and lifting travel limit. The travel restrictions and that is that work is just barely begun. And Cuban president Raul Castro made a statement this morning kitty after the well he's the Cuban government has already. Started. Their PR campaign announcement in the first paragraph of the Cuban statement was. That we after the United States has to lift the embargo. Now that there cannot be normal relations until the embargo was lifted. So that's their that's what they're pressuring. That's what role Castro wants. The United States is pressuring and return of course four more freedoms. Went in Cuba more freedom of speech. Freedom for real elections. In in Cuba which did not exist. And freedom for the dissidents who are frequently there who are still arrested and and and and on occasion how are we are seeing him to Cuba begin to. Begin to expand those freedoms they released 65 political prisoners on the day that this was an ounce and December so there is some. Movement on their side the United States has had to remove a bit on their side as it as happens and all negotiations. The US doesn't currently have an embassy and keep up course that's gonna change pretty quickly but there is a diplomatic post in Havana called the US interest section. What did that to you. Well that kept open the dis is here in the United States are also was a Cuban mission a Cuban interest section. Which is here in Washington just a few blocks away from the white house on sixteenth street. When both sides did communicate. During the Cold War they communicated through the check. Republic. And and now they communicate through the Swiss up until recently when when the communications. Actually were directed more direct and not as back channel. But they also visas for Cuban Americans. Who and people who could travel to the United States were granted here. And American visas in in Cuba and Havana for granted there that was a major. Major part also we had. Programs in Cuba many of them many of them we're programs social programs. Money going to Cubans. To help us help them in their lives but we also had programs which have been exposed. And run of it at the American interest section in Cuba. Which included deaths like Twitter. Programs and also some programs that and to try to undermine. The Castro government that's been going on for fifty years from that location. Some would argue that simply reopening these formal ties with Cuba will do nothing to help the Cuban people. Something the president seemed to echo in terms of the need to lift the embargo. But what is it thinking there. Well how it helps the Cuban people is this the number one oh. Excuse me just seconds thank you the number one that took it could see where a press conference live. Yes the number one industry in Cuba remains tourism. There are millions of tourists who go from Europe. And from Canada. From Mexico. To Cuba. They really want the American dollar and they really want the Americans to start coming in great numbers and as you know right now. Taurus American tourists are still not free to go to Cuba. You have to be part of the delegation yet debut involved in some kind of cultural program of religious program. Arts program. And it's and yet to get a license stilted punitive have to say and the document that that's Richard doing. Subject to federal penalties so that's restricts some of the American tourism. And with the president is saying congress can only lift. Because of Helms Burton and an act was passed. About fifteen years ago because of that. Only. Those people can go and only congress can lift these travel restrictions. That once that is lifted that we much more help to the Cuban people. And if the embargo itself which was imposed so many years ago by John F. Kennedy. Was in fact lifted by congress Italy only congress can do it that would open up trade even further right now the president can only open of trade. In a small way. You mentioned congress and certainly the president can open this embassy but there have to be an ambassador do you expect that to be as smooth ride in terms of a nomination. I don't expected to be a smooth ride Marco Rubio of course we've mentioned as the Florida senator has said already that he'll object. Two via a posting of an ambassador until several things are. Ironed out including the return of some fugitives who have to justice here that there in Cuba now. That were Americans. He wants those people return to the United States and some other items that he says need to be need to happen before he'll approve. And support a new ambassador. But Marco Rubio is a bit of a bind himself. Because he's not running for mayor of Miami. He's running for president of the United States and as we've said. The policy to reopen Cuba is very popular in the united sates mostly polling more than 60%. And even in muck South Florida and recent polls show that people are in fact in favor of all of lifting the embargo so. He he has to continue to appeal to his constituency in Miami where he's from. But he's not you know you can't continue to only appeal to them because if you though that's his hometown he wants to be president of all fifty states. And Jim finally is this something that is considered important to the president's legacy. Well I think it is we've been told privately and in fact publicly that the president wants to visit Cuba before he is finished his term. He has two years left so less than two years left. And so I think sending John Kerry's to the opening here which is gonna happen in this in the week of July 19 sometime in that period in the united in in Havana. The lifting of the flag. That's the first step and I think you'll see as Cuba opens up a little bit more. Maybe after an ambassador is actually appointed. In named that you might see the president the United States go to Cuba he said he does one ago. All right Jim outlet thank you again thanks children. On the White House lawn. And you keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news app and star in this story for exclusive updates on the go. Anti Hernandez in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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