5 Questions to Ask Now About Cuban-American Relations

Diplomatic relations may be on their way to normalizing, but there are still a lot of unknowns.

President Barack Obama talks with Cuba's President Raúl Castro from the Oval Office on Dec. 16. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dec 17, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

Since diplomatic ties were cut in 1960, the United States and Cuba have been uneasy neighbors.

A little more than 90 miles away from American shores, Cuban leader Fidel Castro regularly railed against the captialistic excess of the U.S. while American exiles from the island nation matched the visceral vitriol with their own criticisms of communist Cuba.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced easing sanctions against Cuba after it agreed to release American aid worker Alan Gross. The move leaves more questions open than it answers, but here are a handful of the most pressing that come to mind.

What Happens to GITMO?

Alan Gross may have his freedom, but there are more than 100 other people imprisoned in the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay facility, whose fate is still unclear. Following the release of the Senate’s report on CIA torture, the treatment of detainees there has faced rebuke from the Pope and countless others.

What Will It Mean for the 2016 Elections?

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican of Cuban descent, joins a slew of other Republicans who are already railing against the announcement. It’s no secret that Rubio and fellow Florida politician Jeb Bush are party favorites to land on the ballot in 2016—Wednesday’s announcement may turn into the first volley in the national presidential election debate.

Will Americans Hit the Beaches in Cuba?

There hasn’t been legal travel between the two nations, though refugees have braved the ocean passage while college students have skirted the rules by taking connecting flights through countries with diplomatic relations with Havana. Travel to Cuba would certainly help the country’s sluggish economy. In return, will Cubans who have longed to see long-departed relatives in the United States be allowed to get tourist visas to come visit?

What Will It Mean for Florida’s Coast Guard?

This hardworking division of the coast guard has been fishing refugees out of the ocean and rescuing them off makeshift vessels for decades. If Cuba’s economic conditions improve and normal avenues of immigration open up, there may be fewer people willing to take the dangerous passage illicitly.

What About Other Countries America Has Broken Relations With?

From Pyongyang to Tehran, political leaders around the world are watching Cuba’s return to America's good graces carefully. The economies of North Korea and Iran have been suffering under heavy American sanctions, and if reestablished relations for Cuba prove to help the Caribbean nation prosper, that could offer enticement to détente.