14medio, Washington, 17 December 2014 (With information from agencies) — Cuba and the United States will reestablish bilateral relations. The announcement was made this Wednesday after it became known that the American prisoner Alan Gross had been released in response to a humanitarian request from Washington. In exchange, Barack Obama’s administration released the three Cuban spies from the group called “The Five,” who were still serving sentences in the United States, according to the Twitter account of René González, one of the group who had been released in 2011, after completing his sentence.
Gross, 65, “has already left Cuba on a plane bound for the United States,” said a White House source. “He was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government, following a request from the United States,” the source added, after serving five years of a 15 year sentence for “threats against the security of the State.”
The White House denied that US president Barack Obama would visit Cuban during the two years remaining in his term of office.
Obama made a statement from the White House in which he announced the immediate resumption of relations with Cuba, as well as the outlines of a new policy. “Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
Cuban president Raúl Castro also offered a speech in which he stated that, in a telephone conversation with Obama, they had “agreed to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. This doesn’t mean that the main issue has been resolved: the economic blockade.”
The New York Times reported that Havana and Washington undertook secret negotiations in Canada over the last 18 months, encouraged by Pope Francisco. The dialog culminated in a meeting at the Vatican. Pope Francisco announced he was “deeply pleased” by the historic decision.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, speaking from the Mercosur Summit now being held in Buenos Aires, also welcomed the reestablishment of relations, calling it a “historic rectification.”
The situation of Alan Gross – arrested in 2009 for distributing satellite telecommunications equipment while serving as a subcontractor to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and sentenced in 2011 – was seen as the main obstacle to a normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.
Washington had refused to consider the possibility of a prisoner exchange with Cuba. Gross repeatedly criticized the lack of an effort on the part of the US government for his release, and this year undertook a week-long hunger strike to pressure the White House.