As U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations are officially restored after five decades, we speak to two activists who have spent decades opposing U.S. policy on Cuba: the actor Danny Glover and CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. Both have traveled to Cuba many times over the past decades despite the U.S. embargo. Benjamin lived on the island for four years and has written three books on Cuba. They are both in Washington today for the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after 54 years. The reopened Cuban Embassy was built in 1917, becoming the first diplomatic building in this neighborhood and helping to establish this area as a diplomatic center. Fidel Castro visited the embassy in 1959 after he overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Two years later, in 1961, the United States unilaterally broke off relations with Cuba. The last time the United States and Cuba had diplomatic ties, President Dwight Eisenhower was in office. Today’s opening of embassies is just the first step in normalizing relationships between the two countries. On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro applauded the diplomatic renewal but called on Obama to use his executive powers to remove the ongoing U.S. trade and financial embargo. So far, the Republican majority in Congress has rejected Obama’s calls to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Obama’s congressional opponents have also vowed to block any ambassadorial nominee to Cuba and have denounced the decision to formally remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
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