US, Cuba May Normalize Relations

US, Cuba May Normalize RelationsUS, Cuba May Normalize Relations

The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in US policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday, AP reported.

The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American Alan Gross and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the US. President Barack Obama was to announce the policy changes from the White House at noon Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said the US and Cuba were moving toward normalized banking and trade ties. He also said the US was poised to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. “This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said in an interview. “But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

Gross, 65, was on an American government plane bound for the US Wednesday morning after being released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the Obama administration. As part of the secret negotiations to secure his release, the US was releasing three Cuban jailed in Florida for spying. Obama administration officials have considered Gross’ imprisonment an impediment to improving relations with Cuba.

Cuba was also releasing a non-American intelligence “asset” along with Gross.