This morning word came down that Raul Castro and President Barack Obama would be holding a press conference at 12 noon from their respective nations. As more and more news began to leak the question of the embargo being lifted has run rampant in the cigar community.
The USA will be releasing political prisoners convicted of spying in the United States while Cuba will be doing the same. The talks between to two countries have been ongoing since 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican when Pope Francis encouraged the President via a letter to renew talks and pursue a closer relationship with Cuba.
What do we know so far…
- The USA and Cuba will set up an embassy in each country for this first time since a year prior to the embargo. The embassies will be located in Washington DC and Havana.
- President Obama will announce a reduction of travel restrictions to the island nation however, tourism will still be prohibited. Those who travel will be allowed to bring back $100 in Cuban cigars/alcohol for the first time since the embargo was put in place. This is $100 combined.
- In April 2015, Cuba will be allowed to participate in the Summit of the Nations from which they have been shut out in past years by the USA who had refused to take part in the summit if Cuba was present.
According to an unnamed State Department official, “We are charting a new course toward Cuba, the President understood the time was right to attempt a new approach, both because of the beginnings of changes in Cuba and because of the impediment this was causing for our regional policy.”
No timetable has been established for the embargo to be lifted and we will update throughout the day.
Update: Following the press conference one thing was of note, the embargo will remain with no timetable given for it being lifted. The two countries will work together and create opportunities for business in Cuba. Our doctors will work side by side to fight Ebola, law enforcement will work together to stop drug trafficking and the opening up of telecommunications and use of American credit cards on the island.
With many references made to the country still supporting communism it was stated that the state department and John Kerry will begin an investigation to remove Cuba from the list of countries that support terrorism. He also made note that the embargo is controlled by the senate and removing that embargo will be their responsibility. One would think a Republican controlled congress will not lift it during the Presidential office being held by a Democrat. Add to the fact that President mentioned the human rights issues the people of Cuba endure still needs to change it will be a while before the door is fully open, but at least for now it has been unlocked.
Update: According to the State Department you still need a license to travel to Cuba. Requesting a license could take years of approval as our own David Garofalo has shared on the The Cigar Authority podcast. Invited to an event in Cuba, it took him years before he heard anything on his request.
Update: Official White House document below.
White House Fact Sheet on Cuba by The White House
Update: Text of Raul Castro’s Speech Added Below.