President Obama on Wednesday announced the formal resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than half a century of hostilities. The two countries have agreed to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana.
Standing in the White House Rose Garden, Obama called it "a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people."
Obama said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana this summer to "proudly raise the flag over our embassy once more."
The reopening of the embassy "is not merely symbolic," the president said. It will mean the U.S. will be able to "substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people."
Members of Congress and presidential candidates were quick to react to Obama's announcement, and the responses generally fell along party lines.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted the president, saying, "The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised what she called the president's bold leadership:
"Reopening embassies lays the foundation for a new, more productive relationship with Cuba that can support and advance key American priorities — including human rights, counter-narcotics cooperation, business opportunities for American companies, migration, family unification, and cultural and faith-based exchanges."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: "New US Embassy in Havana helps us engage Cuban people & build on efforts to support positive change. Good step for US&Cuban people."
Republican Jeb Bush, meanwhile, issued a statement that noted the upcoming Independence Day holiday:
"As Americans prepare to celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from tyranny and commit anew to the democratic principles on which our nation was founded, it is no small irony that President Obama prepares to open an Embassy in Havana, further legitimizing the brutal Castro regime.