The following news is directly from Greggory Kort of USA Today:
WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba will announce an agreement Wednesday to open embassies in each other's capitals, formally re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will make the announcement Wednesday morning, said the three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to allow the president to make the formal announcement.
Obama has made rapprochement with Cuba a key part of his second-term agenda, arguing that 55 years of freezing out the Communist country has been counterproductive to establishing human rights on the Caribbean island nation.
With some initial help from Pope Francis, the United States and Cuba have been negotiating the move for more than a year, going public with their diplomatic efforts last December. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met personally in Panama in April.
Obama cleared the way for a normalization of relations a month ago when he removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list. But a key sticking point after three rounds of embassy talks through the spring has been freedom of movement for U.S. diplomats in Cuba.
The president hinted at progress earlier on Wednesday, as he hosted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the White House.
"I very much appreciate President Rousseff and Brazil's strong support for our new opening toward Cuba. I updated Dilma on our progress, including our work to open embassies in Havana and Washington," Obama said. "And I believe that Brazil's leadership in the region, as well as its own journey to democracy and a market economy can make it an important partner as we work to create more opportunities and prosperity for the Cuban people."
Even without a formal diplomatic relationship with Cuba, the Obama administration has relaxed trade and travel restrictions with Cuba, although the embargo remains as a matter of law and tourism is still banned.
The move could face opposition in Congress: Republicans — including Cuban-American senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both seeking the Republican nomination for president — have threatened to withhold funding for an embassy in Havana. An ambassador would also face a Senate confirmation hearing.
Cuba maintains a Cuban Interests Section — now legally part of the Swiss embassy — on 16th Street Northwest in Washington, 10 blocks from the White House. A similar arrangement through the Swiss allows for a United States Interests Section in Havana.
What does this news mean for Cuban cigars in the US? Well the embargo has not officially been lifted as that can only be done by Congress. However, it appears as though giant steps are being made to tear down this half a century old hindrance with our Cuban neighbors. Last month, the U.S. officially removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror. President Obama also broke a 50 year silence by meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro in Panama earlier this year. To see the embargo lifted, according to US law, Cuba must legalize all political activity, release all political prisoners, commit to free and fair elections in the transition to representative democracy, grant freedom to the press, respect internationally recognized human rights, and allow labor unions. Has this been accomplished in Cuba? From what I have heard, it has not. This naturally raises a lot of emotion and debate for the US Cubans that fled originally from the tyrannical leader Fidel Castro, as their government doesn't seem to have made any changes. However on the other hand, if 50 years of sanctions have not brought down the Castro regime, is there any reason to think the embargo will ever work? The politics involved in this historic decision are complicated and rather mixed. The question most of us are asking in the cigar community is when will we begin to see Cuban cigars in our US humidors? Only time will tell, and I am as curious as the rest of you. I would be surprised if it happened in less than 3 years. Besides, I personally think we have a plethora of phenomenal non-Cuban cigars in our market, so I am not holding my breath. I continue to support the amazing cigar manufacturers that have created the incredible cigars for our current enjoyment. What do you think? CV