The United States will restore diplomatic relations it severed with Cuba more than 50 years ago, a major policy shift ending decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. Nathan Frandino reports.
An historic day in U.S.-Cuba relations. And it began with the release of American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in a Cuban prison. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALAN GROSS, AMERICAN AID WORKER, SAYING: "What a blessing it is be a citizen of this country." His release - more than a year in the making - comes amid a plan by U.S. President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that's rooted in events that took place before most of us were born." Key changes include opening a U.S. embassy in Havana, where it now has an interests section, a review of Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; and the expansion of travel and trade. An end to the trade embargo, however, needs congressional approval. Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the U.S. and was held for nearly 20 years. The U.S. in return will send three Cuban intelligence agents held in the U.S. back to Cuba. Not everyone is on board with the policy shift. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio -- a Cuban-American representing Florida -- said the White House conceded everything and gained little. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SENATOR MARCO RUBIO, SAYING: "These changes will lead to legitimacy for a government that shamelessly abuses human rights, but it will not lead to assistance for those whose rights are being abused. It is another concession to a tyranny by the Obama administration rather then a defense of every universal and inalienable right that our country was founded on and stands for." The U.S. and Cuba severed their ties in 1961.