HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Parliament unanimously endorsed the historic step taken by President Raul Castro to resume diplomatic relations with the United States, reported dpa on Friday.
Castro addressed the 600 members of the one chamber parliament in its last session of the year. He explained the decision to reach agreement with the old ideological enemy, announced Wednesday, after secret negotiations over the last 18 months.
Castro, 83, also gave details about the return to the island of three spies from the group called the “Cuban Five”, released as part of the agreement with the United States.
The three agents were part of a Cuban espionage network in Miami discovered in 1998. The remaining two had returned earlier to the island after serving out their sentences.
In return, the island freed Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor jailed in Cuba since 2009 and US spy, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, imprisoned in Cuba for nearly 20 years.
The Cuban government and media has especially celebrated the return of the three agents of the Cuban Five, the subject of an intense international and national campaigns for years.
Castro and Obama spoke by telephone on Tuesday for the first time. They even exchanged a few jokes, Obama revealed during a press conference in Washington. No heads of state of the two countries had had direct contact for decades.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after the triumph of the Cuban revolution. Then, since 1962, Washington imposed an economic and commercial embargo on the island, citing the expropriation of US companies in Cuba after the arrival of Fidel Castro to power.
Although Obama announced Wednesday a relaxing of several trade and travel restrictions to the island for US citizens, the embargo can only be lifted by the US Congress.