With the release of American Alan Gross, the beleaguered relationship between the US and Cuba is poised to undergo major changes. The two countries are preparing to normalize their diplomatic relations, which were severed in January 1961, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the US plans to re-establish its embassy in Havana. "The president understood the time was right to attempt a new approach, both because of the beginnings of changes in Cuba and because of the impediment this was causing for our regional policy," an administration official tells CNN. Both President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are to address the changes at noon today. Among them:
- The US will remove a range of restrictions on travel and transferring money to Cuba. It will also review Cuba's inclusion on its terrorism list and allow telecommunications equipment to be exported to the country.
- Cuba will release 53 political prisoners. It will also boost its citizens' Internet access and allow US debit and credit cards to be used in the country.
- Good news for aficionados of Cuban cigars, as per the AP: American travelers will now be able to return with up to $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco (and $400 worth of goods total).
- The two countries will start collaborating on issues like counternarcotics, the environment, and human trafficking.
Meanwhile, Gross' family is celebrating his freedom. "We're crying. We're jumping up and down," a cousin tells MSNBC
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