President Barack Obama vowed to end what he described as an "outdated" approach toward Cuba as the U.S. seeks to begin normalizing relations with the country, which have been strained for decades, through a wide set of actions ranging from the easing of travel restrictions to some imports.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner criticized the policy change, saying it's the latest in a series of "mindless concessions" to dictators. Meanwhile, potential 2016 president hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he opposed Obama's move to normalize Cuba relations, reported USA Today.
The U.S. plans to embark on the most massive overhaul of its relations with Cuba in more than 50 years. The U.S. first imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960 and cut diplomatic ties the following year as Cold War tensions ran high.
"Neither the Cuban or American people have been well served" by the decades long policy rooted in events that took place before most Americans were born, Obama said in a White House address.
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"These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked," he added. "It's time for a new approach."
This follows the release on humanitarian grounds of American contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison where he spent five years on espionage charges along with a separate U.S. intelligence agent who'd been held in Cuba in exchange for the release of three Cubans imprisoned in the U.S.
The Cuban imprisonment of Gross had presented a major obstacle toward Obama's desire to take additional steps in re-examining the U.S.' Cuba policy. The administration had already implemented steps aimed at relaxing travel restrictions for those with family members in the country.
In an address in Spanish, Cuban President Raul Castro said the country is taking measures to make its brand of socialism prosperous as it seeks to strengthen ties between the two nations.