Raul Castro

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Last month we thought Cuba’s communist hardliners had put the brakes on growing the island’s private sector. But you never know with Cuba.

Today Havana issued a hopeful reform that Cuba’s half a million fledgling entrepreneurs – or cuentapropistas – have long waited for. The island’s communist government announced that small private businesses may now become genuine legal entities.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

On Saturday, Cuba’s communist leaders will launch their seventh party congress – a gathering to set the island’s future political and economic course. It will run through Tuesday, April 19.

The last congress was held five years ago – but since then, Cuba has normalized relations with its sworn cold-war enemy, the United States.

WhiteHouse.gov

COMMENTARY

Shortly after Barack Obama’s historic speech in Havana Tuesday morning, I met a smart, 34-year-old Cuban accountant named Kariel González in the Vedado district.

He’d listened to President Obama on the radio, and he was cheering the U.S. leader's last line – ¡Sí Se Puede! – a Spanish rendering of his iconic campaign slogan, Yes We Can!

González said he'd already heard Cubans repeat the soundbite on the sidewalks. “It’s the sort of thing that makes Obama so popular on the island,” he told me.

Cubans Embrace President Obama's Call For Change On The Island

Mar 23, 2016
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

It's fairly apparent that President Obama's historic speech to Cubans yesterday was received positively on the island.

Obama called for democracy, free expression and a freer economy during his 35-minute speech at the Gran Teatro in Old Havana Tuesday morning. Obama even directly addressed Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who was in the audience, telling him the U.S. presidential visit means he no longer needs to fear Cuba's Cold War foe.

"I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas," Obama declared in perhaps the linchpin line of his speech.

Jose Goitia / AP via Miami Herald

Ramón Castro, the lesser known older brother of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro, died Tuesday morning at age 91 in Havana.

The Cuban communist party newspaper Granma did not give a cause of death.

According to Granma, Ramón Castro was jailed by the Batista dictatorship in 1953 and helped supply the militants of the Cuban Revolution, who were led by Fidel. But after the revolution took power in 1959, Ramón largely shied away from politics and spent the rest of his life as a farmer.

President Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro in New York this morning, for the second time this year. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which Castro is attending for the first time.

The General Assembly also brought together Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday for their first face-to-face meeting in nearly two years. That meeting appears to have done little to resolve tensions between Russia and the United States on the issue of how to deal with ISIS and Syria.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

As Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Cuba on Sunday, Cuban-Americans did the same here in South Florida – but most prayed that the Pope would convince Cuba’s communist leader, Raúl Castro, to adopt more democratic reforms on the island.

At La Ermita Roman Catholic church in Coconut Grove – a shrine to Cuba’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity – Sunday morning Mass was standing-room-only. And many had just finished listening to Pope Francis’ homily live from Havana on Spanish-language radio.

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

Just 90 miles south of Key West, the U.S. flag was raised in Cuba to mark the opening of the American embassy in Havana -- 54 years after it was closed.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a small ceremony, speaking about the island's future and the relationship between the two countries.

"Cuba's future is for the Cuban people to shape," Kerry said.

Meanwhile in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, emotions ran high as critics and supporters of the move clashed at a street protest.

Listen to Kenny Malone's report below:

Cuba's Next Communists: Why Obama Needs Them To Make Engagement Work

Apr 15, 2015
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Cuban President Raúl Castro was the longest speaker at last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. At age 83, he was also the oldest.

And that matters as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations after a half century of cold war – a process that on Tuesday led President Obama to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.

It matters because President Obama says his new engagement policy isn’t meant to change Cuba overnight. It’s meant to help the U.S. influence democratic change once Castro’s generation of hardline communists is gone.

White House

Imagine a U.S. President came to the Summit of the Americas and, while criticizing the government of a certain oil-rich South American nation, remarked that he does enjoy Venezuelan salsa singers like Rubén Blades.

He’d be the butt of jokes on late-night Latin American TV – because Blades is Panamanian, not Venezuelan.

Presidencia de Panama

The Summit of the Americas kicks off Friday evening when the hemisphere’s heads of state inaugurate the two-day gathering in downtown Panama City. But while there a host of issues to discuss, all eyes are on just two guys: President Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

ALEX CASTRO / AP FILE

Six weeks after President Barack Obama announced efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, former Cuba leader Fidel Castro writes a letter of reserved-approval for the plan.

Cuba President Raul Castro said this week that relations with the United States can only be rehabilitated if  the U.S. returns Guantanamo Bay to the island and the embargo is lifted.

Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

What President Obama did on December 17 was hardly going to prevent what Cuban leader Raúl Castro did on December 30.

Obama last month announced plans to normalize relations with communist Cuba, which were severed 54 years ago. As if to test the waters in the wake of that historic decision, a new Cuban dissident group called Yo También Exijo (I Also Demand) called a free-speech gathering in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución for December 30.

Flickr

In the wake of the historic Cuba policy changes President Obama ordered yesterday, Congress will now debate whether to scuttle the failed, 52-year-old trade embargo against the communist island.

Capitol Hill should indeed ditch it – and if it’s looking for reasons, it should consider some of the repulsive folks Washington has had to engage this year.

Julio Cortez / AP

Earlier today, President Barack Obama proclaimed that the policies toward Cuba over the past 50 years have not worked and announced major changes in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Obama reiterated that opening travel, financial exchanges, and telecommunications between the two nations will allow American values to be more easily shared with the Cuban people.

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