Fri | Dec 2, 2016

US was at odds with world over Cuba policy

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jorge L. Garcia Perez, who is known as Antunez, with the Cuban National Civic Resistance Front, reads a statement during a news conference surrounded by representatives of Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, on Wednesday. - AP
A bus filled with excited Cubans passes through the Vedado section of Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. - AP
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WASHINGTON (AP):

President Barack Obama's decision to pursue new relations with Cuba was driven in part by a stinging realisation: Long-standing US policies aimed at isolating Cuba had instead put Washington at odds with the rest of the world.

The American economic embargo on Cuba drove a wedge between the US and Latin American nations. In an annual diplomatic embarrassment, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the US policy. And while the US was clinging to its economic restrictions against the small communist nation just 90 miles off its shores, leaders of China, Russia and Brazil flocked to Havana, promising millions in investment.

"Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people," Obama said Wednesday as he announced historic shifts in US relations with Cuba following 18 months of secret negotiations.

The embargo itself will remain in place; only Congress can fully revoke it. But the president is moving on his own to expand economic ties, open an embassy in Havana, and send high-ranking US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to visit and review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The US also is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. Tourist travel remains banned.