LISTEN LIVE

World Affairs

(This post was last updated at 10:45 a.m. ET.)

After 54 years of animosity, the United States and Cuba have formally restored diplomatic ties.

That means that the U.S. opened an embassy in Havana and Cuba opened an embassy in Washington, D.C., this morning.

With the United States and Cuba inching closer to fully restoring diplomatic ties, including reopening embassies for the first time in 54 years, the future is murky for tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants who have been ordered by immigration authorities to leave the country.

As many as 25,000 Cubans living in the United States have outstanding deportation orders, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They include people who pose a threat to national security or have serious criminal convictions and are considered priorities for immigration enforcement agents.

Since Washington announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Havana last December, the treasury department has also issued ferry licences to at least two U.S. companies. Trips to Cuba from Spain by government officials and business leaders have jumped this year as Spain rushes to make the most of what is becoming a more open economy on the Caribbean island.

As Congress begins deliberations about the agreement, opponents will relentlessly lobby legislators to reject the deal on the grounds that it has not closed all pathways to a nuclear bomb and has legitimized Iran as a threshold nuclear power. But they will not be able to offer a viable alternative to it. Should Congress vote to reject the agreement anyway, Obama has promised to veto their decision.

Is it a good deal?

President Obama and his detractors are headed for a ferocious debate on this question following the nuclear agreement announced Tuesday in Vienna between Iran and six world powers.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

A crowed overflowed the Sociedad La Union Marti-Maceo on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City late Sunday in a joint tribute with Cuban officials to the legacy of Jose Marti, considered the father of Cuban independence.

The afternoon opened with a speech extolling the virtues of Marti - who spent a great deal of time organizing cigar workers and Cuban ex-patriots in Ybor City - by Rafael Polanco Brahojos, Director of the Sociedad Cultural Jose Marti.

Soviet Veteran on Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Apr 22, 2015
Photo Courtesy of Russian-American Community Center of Florida

It's been almost 70 years since the end of World War II. 

Thinking back on the war holds many memories for Alex Farfel, 85, who on Tuesday joined a group of 80 other World War II veterans at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport for a special trip.  

Honor Flight West Central Florida regularly takes veterans on an all-expenses-paid, one-day flight to Washington, D.C. 

The veterans visited Arlington National Cemetery and memorials built to honor their service during the war.

Pope Francis, who plans to visit the United States in September, might tack onto his itinerary a side trip to Cuba, the Vatican says, but it cautions the talks with Havana are at an early stage.

The Catholic Herald quotes Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi as saying Francis is "considering the idea of a Cuba leg."

The Herald notes:

  Rob Valle used to fly fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. Now he flies charter flights for his company Air Key West. Since late March that has included a weekly scheduled flight from Key West International Airport to Havana. He fits nine passengers, including one in the co-pilot seat next to him. They pay $525 for the round-trip flight.

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.

Poll: Cuban-Americans' Opposition to Normalizing Relations Softening

Apr 4, 2015

Are Cuban-Americans softening their views toward the hated Castro regime that continues to rule the island 90 miles from Key West?

Perhaps not, but a new poll from a Miami-based firm suggests that opposition to President Obama's initiative opening new ties with the Communist country is softening. A bare majority of Cuban-Americans back Obama's move, but that doesn’t mean anti-Castro politics aren't still a winner in Florida.

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET.

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps last week with 150 passengers on board, received treatment for suicidal tendencies for several years before he became a pilot, a German prosecutor says.

Christoph Kumpa, a spokesman for Duesseldorf investigators, says Lubitz "had been in treatment of a psychotherapist because of what is documented as being suicidal at that time."

With Tuesday's deadline for an international deal on Iran's nuclear program approaching, foreign ministers from Iran and six world powers are trying to hash out an agreement. The debate currently centers on where Iran's nuclear fuel should be stored, and how — and when — economic sanctions should be lifted.

Other details, such as rules controlling enrichment, the length of the deal and how it would be enforced, also remain unsettled.

Updated at 11:05 a.m. ET

The co-pilot who deliberately downed an airliner over the French Alps this week, killing all 150 aboard, had told a girlfriend sometime last year that he would "do something" that would make people remember his name, a German newspaper reports.

Florida lawmakers of Cuban descent spoke out Tuesday on the Senate floor against normalizing relations with the island nation. 

St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs

Some of the major international issues of the day - Cuba, Russia, Syria, terrorism and immigration - will be among the topics of discussion at a Saint Petersburg conference that's drawing experts from around the world to the Tampa Bay area.

The Saint Petersburg Conference on World Affairs takes place Thursday, February 26, through Saturday, February 28 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg University Student Center.

Almost forty panelists, including 1986 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and expert on Nigerian democracy Wole Soyinka, along with diplomats, academics and military experts will share ideas and information during 16 free panel sessions.

nbcnews.com

Three men accused of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group and wage war against the United States were arrested on terrorism charges Wednesday, federal officials said.

American Businesses Preparing to Flood Cuba

Jan 28, 2015

As part of the deal between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro to normalize relations, the two sides agreed to open new trade channels for farming equipment, construction materials and a wide variety of other resources for Cuba's emerging private entrepreneurs. That interest has been so intense that membership in the United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, a group of businesses that want to increase trade to the island, has doubled to 50 in the month following the announcement.

The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro's government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country's struggling economy.

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.

Pages