World Affairs

Alan Gross, the former USAID subcontractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release last week, will get $3.2 million from the federal government, part of a settlement with the Maryland-based company for which he worked at the time of his arrest.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, in a statement, said it had finalized a settlement, agreed to in principle in November, with Development Alternatives, Inc.

Now that President Obama wants to normalize U.S. relations with communist Cuba, the big question is: Can the U.S. trade embargo last much longer? WLRN Americas editor Tim Padgett spoke to a Cuban émigré here in South Florida who doesn’t think so – and who’s helping U.S. companies prepare for an embargo-less future:

Despite Cuba’s long stagnation and isolation from the global economy, the potential trade opportunities go both ways. While some Americans will be itching at the opportunity to obtain the famed Cuban cigars more easily, the country also has a surprisingly robust biotechnology industry that makes a number of vaccines not now available in the United States. Another hot spot for the economy could be mining, as Cuba has one of the largest deposits of nickel in the world. While United States companies are eager to establish a toehold in the country, many expect former Cuban businessmen and leaders in the rum or sugar industries to lead the charge.

Two days after the U.S. and Cuba decided to end a more than 50-year estrangement, the natural question is: What's next?

On Morning Edition, NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports that the process of normalizing diplomatic relations will be pretty straight forward and is likely to be done quickly.

"We can do that via an exchange of letter or notes. It doesn't require a formal sort of legal treaty or agreement," Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said during a briefing on Thursday.

1. Obama, Raul Castro Announce Normalization Of Relations

President Obama said Wednesday the U.S. and Cuba will normalize relations, which have been strained since being severed in 1961. He spoke to Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday to finalize details of the announcement.

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.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in December 2014 when President Obama announced plans to improve U.S. ties with Cuba. We're republishing it with minor updates following Fidel Castro's death.

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959 and received a warm welcome. Castro met Vice President Richard Nixon, placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

American Alan Gross had spent more than five years in a Cuban prison, where he lost five teeth, 100 pounds and much of the sight in his right eye. He could barely walk because of chronic pain and was, his wife Judy Gross said in June, "despondent and very hopeless" because he had 10 years to go in his sentence for crimes against the Cuban state. Then, on Tuesday, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told him in a phone call that he was going home.

There was a long pause, his spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said today in Washington, and then Gross said, "I'll believe it when I see it."

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

White House Statement on "Charting New Course on Cuba"

Dec 17, 2014

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 17, 2014

Fact Sheet:  Charting a New Course on Cuba

 

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

AP Photo

An Israeli police officer has been charged in the beating of a Tampa teenager during a violent protest in Jerusalem in July, the nation’s Justice Ministry said.

The ministry said Wednesday a police investigation concluded that “evidence was found supporting the guilt of the police officer suspected of severe violent crimes.”

Tariq Abu Khdeir, an American citizen of Palestinian descent who was visiting from Tampa with his family, was beaten at an east Jerusalem protest that followed the gruesome death of his cousin.

South Florida ranks third among the nation’s metropolitan areas with the highest number of Central American minors placed with sponsors, chiefly parents and other relatives, according to the latest federal government figures. Harris County, which includes Houston, has the largest number, with 2,866 minors placed with families, followed by Southern California (including Los Angeles and San Diego) at 2,369, and then South Florida with 2,268 (including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties). For the nation as a whole, the total was 29,890, according to the figures posted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of the program.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest to remember Steven Sotloff, the South Florida native who was killed ​b​y militant extremists in Iraq.

​Video of Sotloff's beheading was released earlier this week.

On Friday afternoon,​ ​about 600 friends,​ ​family and complete strangers came together in memory of Sotloff.

"They want to celebrate his life, not just his death," said Robert Hersh, executive director of Temple Beth Am.

AP Photo

An Internet video posted online Tuesday purported to show the beheading by the Islamic State group of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing in Syria last year.

The extremist group, which has claimed wide swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate, said Sotloff’s killing was retribution for continued U.S. airstrikes targeting its fighters in Iraq. It brazenly killed American journalist James Foley last month in the same manner and again threatened to kill another hostage, this one they identified as a British citizen.

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