TIME Cuba-US relations

Cubans Appear More Relaxed in Smooth U.S. Talks

US Restores Diplomatic Relations With Cuba
Roberta Jacobson, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, arrives to speak to the media before taking questions during diplomatic talks with Cuba at the Palacio de las Convenciones de La Habana on Jan. 22, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The visit of the most senior U.S. official to Cuba in 38 years was a delicate—but well-rehearsed—maneuver

HAVANA — The visit of the most senior U.S. official to Cuba in 38 years gave every appearance of doing what it aimed to, drawing the nominal enemies into a distinctly Caribbean embrace, complete with broad smiles, warm body language and actual language commodious enough that everyone could fit together for a group photo.

It was a simple dance, but required coordinated footwork, which both parties appeared to have practiced in private. The good feeling on display appeared to be partly genuine and partly a concerted effort to maintain the momentum that surged up suddenly on Dec. 19, the day President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro simultaneously announced their intention to end a half century of what one U.S. diplomat termed “diplomatic estrangement” and, finally, re-establish formal ties. As formal talks proceed toward making the changes that the Cubans and Obama are free to make on their own—such as re-opening embassies in one another’s capitals, a primary topic in Havana on Thursday—officials of both governments privately acknowledge a secondary, over-arching intention. That would be to aim to sustain if not further swell the wave of public enthusiasm, leaving the U.S. Congress scant alternative but to repeal the 1960 Cuba Embargo Act that barred almost all exports to the emerging communist state.

Which made for some peculiar sights at the colorless Havana convention center where the delegations spent most of Wednesday and Thursday. Scores if not hundreds of journalists had gathered in the Hotel Palco waiting for something that has never happened in any previous U.S.-Cuba talks: a press briefing. Longtime Cuba watchers were gobsmacked by the spectacle of a room crowded with video cameras and reporters’ laptops. On the sidelines, senior Cuban officials smiled sheepishly. This was after all the land of the Central Committee communiqué, not to say diktats. “Usually,” said one senior official, “we don’t have a culture of informing the press.”

And yet, they proved pretty good at it—better than the Americans, on this day at least. Havana put forward youthful Josefina Vidal, head of the U.S. Division in the Foreign Ministry, and though she was never less than correct, she was also warm and apparently at ease. She spoke first in Spanish, then in English. The English was more direct: “It was a first meeting,” she said at one point, cutting what could have been four paragraphs into one. “This is a process. So we just made a list of things we have to do, when.”

By contrast, the top U.S. diplomat stood stock-still before the cameras, answered questions in detail, but betrayed not the merest hint she was happy to be here. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs Roberta Jacobson appeared to recognize her most dangerous audience was the anti-Castro Lobby that for five decades had blocked the kind of rapprochement of which she has been made the face. It was as if she had the sense that the merest smile line would create traction for naysayers watching from Capitol Hill, calling it evidence democracy had been undermined.

The Cubans acknowledged the peculiarity of their side appearing more transparent than the Americans, but also signaled they understood why. The official offered an explanation on the relative powers of the U.S. system of government so often lost on Americans: “The power in the U.S. is not with the president,” the senior official observed. “It’s with a class. Don’t be fooled.”

And so, let the momentum go forward, from Havana to Miami and up the seaboard to Washington. After the Dec. 19 joint stunner, both governments moved with unusual dispatch—exchanging prisoners, papers, and statements of good will. President Obama took only a few days to re-write regulations that now allow Americans to fly to Havana without Washington’s permission—no great rush evident quite yet, but demand is clearly there—and opened previously closed gateways to electronics and other goods. “That’s what he’s allowed to do,” the senior Cuban official observed. Another executive action, Cuba’s place on the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism, is already under review.

At the same time, in a sop to the Miami lobby, the American delegation conspicuously made good on Obama’s vow to continue to harp on Havana’s human rights record. On Friday morning, Jacobson had seven Cuban dissidents to breakfast at the splendid tropic compound that will once again be the ambassador’s residence if Washington and Havana re-establish formal diplomatic ties—the move perhaps most easily accomplished, despite the nations’ complex history. Prominent in the sculpted garden of the dining room was a broad wooden American Eagle said to be salvaged from the USS Maine, the destruction of which became the casus belli for the Spanish-American War.

The attention to human rights clearly irks the Cubans, who blame their government’s paranoia on a long and colorful history of U.S. intelligence operations aimed at bringing it down. But like both sides, they appear prepared to file the dispute under “profound disagreements” that can be addressed from embassies at least as well as Interests Sections, the cumbersome arrangement through which Cuban and American diplomats operate now in each other’s capitals, beneath the protection of the Swiss. No timetables were offered, but the next round, perhaps in DC, may address technical matters.

For the moment, the focus remains on keeping things clicking along toward a kind of “normality.” At a news conference at the residence on Friday, after the breakfast with dissidents, Jacobson thawed a good deal answering a question on the Embargo Act, projecting sympathy if not empathy for anyone trying to square Obama’s executive changes with persistent existence of that legislation.

But the Cubans have patience. “”It’s a good sign,” said one other senior official, smiling wryly. “We have nothing to lose.”

TIME politics

Why the United States Controls Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay
US Marines raising the American Flag over Guantanamo Bay in 1898 US Marine Corps—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

President Obama promised to close the prison there on Jan. 22, 2009

It was six years ago, on Jan. 22, 2009, two days after he became President, that Barack Obama issued an executive order designed to “promptly close detention facilities at Guantanamo.” The closing of that prison at the U.S. naval base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay would, he said, take place no less than a year from that date.

Five years after the 2010 deadline passed — and even as relations between the U.S. and Cuba begin to thaw — the detention facilities remain in use. More than 100 prisoners remain there, even though that number is declining and officials have said that Obama would still like to achieve the closure before he leaves office.

But how did the U.S. end up with such a facility in Cuba in the first place?

MORE New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Planning Trade Mission to Cuba

The story of Guantanamo goes back more than a century, to the time of the Spanish-American War. And, during that time, it’s been, as it is now, a source of controversy.

Until 1898, Cuba had belonged to Spain; as the Spanish empire diminished, Cubans fought for their independence. The U.S. joined in to help its neighbor and, though the Spanish-American War ended up focused mainly on the Spanish presence in the Philippines, Cuba was the site of the sinking of the USS Maine, the event that precipitated American military involvement. (Remember “Remember the Maine“? That’s this.) When the war ended, Spain gave the U.S. control of Cuba — among other territories, like Puerto Rico — and, about three years later, Cuba became an independent nation.

MORE With Cuba, Nothing Can Be Simple

However, that independence was not without a catch: as part of the Platt Amendment, the document that governed the end of the occupation, the new Cuban government was required to lease or sell certain territory to the United States. Here’s how TIME later summarized (with numbers accurate for 1960) what happened next:

The U.S. rights in Guantanamo are clear and indisputable. By a treaty signed in 1903 and reaffirmed in 1934, the U.S. recognized Cuba’s “ultimate sovereignty” over the 45-sq.-mi. enclave in Oriente province near the island’s southeast end. In return, Cuba yielded the U.S. “complete jurisdiction and control” through a perpetual lease that can be voided only by mutual agreement.

For a low rental ($3,386.25 annually), the U.S. Navy gets its best natural harbor south of Charleston, S.C., plus 19,621 acres of land, enough for a complex of 1,400 buildings and two airfields, one of them capable of handling entire squadrons of the Navy’s hottest jets, e.g., 1,000-m.p.h. F8U Crusaders, 700-m.p.h. A4D Skyhawks. In terms of global strategy, Guantanamo has only marginal value. It served as an antisubmarine center in World War II, and could be one again. But its greatest worth is as an isolated, warm-water training base for the fleet. With an anchorage capable of handling 50 warships at once, it is the Navy’s top base for shakedown cruises and refresher training for both sailors and airmen. What Cuba gets out of the deal is 3,700 jobs for the technicians and laborers who help maintain the base, a payroll of $7,000,000 annually for hard-pressed Oriente.

When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba the 1950s, there was briefly a period during which the fate of Guantanamo seemed in question. As TIME reported in the Sept. 12, 1960, issue, Castro threatened to kick the Navy out if the U.S. continued to interfere with the Cuban economy; however, he also said that he knew that, if he did so, the U.S. could take it as a pretext to attack and get rid of him. Castro would continue to bring up his displeasure at the U.S. presence in Cuba — in 1964, he cut off the water supply, to which the Navy responded by building its own water and power plants — but the lease stayed, as did the military families based there.

MORE When Fidel Castro Canceled Santa Claus

Guantanamo returned to the news in the 1990s when it got a new set of residents. In 1991, in the wake of a coup d’état in Haiti, thousands of Haitians fled by sea for the United States. In December of that year, Guantanamo Bay became the site of a refugee camp built to house those who sought asylum while the Bush administration figured out what to do with them. Throughout the years that followed, the camp became home to thousands of native Cubans, too, who had also attempted to flee to the U.S. for political asylum. In the summer of 1994 alone, TIME wrote the following May, “more than 20,000 Haitians and 30,000 Cubans were intercepted at sea and delivered to hastily erected camps in Guantanamo.” In 1999, during conflict in the Balkans (and after the Haitian and Cuban refugees had been sent home or on to the States), the U.S. agreed to put up 20,000 new refugees at Guantanamo, but that plan ended up scrapped for being too far from their European homelands.

The decision to house al-Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo was reached shortly after 9/11 — and, nearly as immediately, the world began to wonder just what their status would be.

A former Pentagon official told TIME’s Mark Thompson last month that some would like the Guantanamo Bay facility to be closed entirely, although that’s very unlikely to happen. If the long history of Guantanamo Bay proves anything, it’s that, though regimes and requirements may change, the U.S. Navy is likely to stay.

Read next: Why the U.S.-Cuba Thaw Doesn’t Mean Guantanamo Bay Is Closing

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY The Economy

The 2015 State of the Union Address In Under 2 Minutes

President Barack Obama highlighted the recovering economy as well as proposals for free community college, increasing trade with Cuba, and building more infrastructure.

MONEY state of the union

What Every Consumer Should Know Before Watching the State of the Union

State of the Union address 2014
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

A sneak peek at what Obama’s State of the Union ideas could mean for your wallet.

This year, President Obama broke with tradition and started previewing his State of the Union proposals in the two weeks before the big event. He went to Tennessee to talk about community college, to Iowa to talk about broadband, to the Federal Trade Commission to talk about identity theft, and even to LinkedIn, where his senior adviser published his plan about paid time off.

As a result, we already have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to hear Tuesday night—and what it actually means. Here’s MONEY’s take on Obama’s proposals.

1) Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich and give credits to the less-rich; Republicans say, “Yeah, right.”

On Saturday, the White House announced a proposal to raise the capital gains tax from 25% to 28% and close what’s sometimes called the “trust fund loophole.” Obama wants to use the revenue to create a $500 tax credit for families with two working spouses; expand the credits available to families with children; expand the education tax credit for college students; and force businesses without retirement plans to automatically enroll workers in IRAs. Republicans have said this plan is a nonstarter.

While political observers agree that these ideas stand little chance of becoming law, consider this Obama’s opening argument in the coming debate about tax code reform. Read more >>

2) Obama’s broadband plan might just fix the internet.

Think of it as the internet’s “public option.” Some cities, like Chattanooga, Tenn., have much faster internet than the rest of us. That’s because municipalities have built their own broadband networks to compete with internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, driving prices down and speeds up.

So why won’t your town do the same? Because it’s often illegal—19 states have laws preventing municipalities from creating their own networks. Obama plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission to override these laws. We don’t yet know if the FCC has the authority to do that, but if it does, Obama’s plan could change the way Americans access the internet. Read more >>

3) You already have identity fraud protection tools that are better than the ones Obama proposed.

Obama’s plans to fight identity theft aren’t nearly as ambitious. First, he’ll call on Congress to pass a new law requiring companies to tell you within 30 days if your personal data is exposed. Second, he’ll call on banks and financial institutions to give you access to your credit score for free.

But that won’t do much to protect your money. Most states already have even stricter laws about security breach notifications, and by the time an identity thief has tanked your credit score, it’s way too late. Instead, you’re better off with the tools you already have: chip-and-signature credit cards and free credit reports. Here’s what you can do today to beef up your fraud protection. Read more >>

4) President Obama will push for paid sick leave and paid maternity leave—but look to your city hall instead.

The United States lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to paid time off: 88% of American workers have no paid family leave, 39% have no paid sick leave, and 15% don’t even have unpaid leave. Obama wants to change that, starting with the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would let workers earn up to seven days of paid sick leave. He also wants to sign a memorandum giving federal workers at least six weeks of paid leave after a child is born.

But listen for more details about his third idea, to help states and towns start their own sick leave programs. Local government has been leading the way on this issue: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island offer paid family leave, and more than a dozen cities have started offering paid sick days. Change seems more likely at the local level, so what specifically does Obama want the federal government to do? Read more >>

5) There’s not much hope for the free community college plan—but that’s okay.

Obama wants to offer free community college to about 9 million students every year. If you think that sounds great, don’t get too excited. Experts say the plan is dead on arrival—it’s too expensive, Republicans will never support it, and community colleges wouldn’t even be prepared for the influx of students. But there are already a ton of ways to take community college classes for free, or close to it. Read more >>

6) Lower mortgage insurance premiums will save homeowners money. But will that really help the housing market?

The Federal Housing Administration plans to lower government mortgage insurance premiums from 1.35% of the loan amount to .85%. That translates to a savings of about $900 a year. The hope is that will encourage more Americans—especially first-time buyers—to enter the housing market. But there are other reasons why this demographic hasn’t started shopping yet. Plus, Republicans are afraid the change could put more homeowners at risk of default. Read more >>

7) Book your trip to Cuba today.

Here’s the rare foreign policy issue with implications for your spring break: Pack your bags for Havana! While the announcement wasn’t part of Obama’s State of the Union “spoiler” tour, Obama is sure to talk about his decision to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba—and new travel rules went into effect on Friday.

Starting January 16, you no longer need a special government license to travel to Cuba, and neither do airlines or travel agents. Since the rules have been loosened, prices are expected to fall—but make your plans before demand picks up. Read more >>

TIME White House

How 7 Ideas in the State of the Union Would Affect You

President Barack Obama threw out a lot of big ideas during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, but how would they affect you? Here’s a quick look at seven proposals he previewed even before the speech, in order of how likely they are to be enacted soon.

See TIME’s full State of the Union coverage here

Reducing mortgage premiums

The idea: Obama proposed reducing mortgage insurance premiums on government-backed loans rates in order to make it easier for low-income Americans to buy homes.

What he’s said: “For us, and millions of Americans like us, buying a home has always been about more than owning a roof and four walls. It’s about investing in savings, and building a family, and planting roots in a community … I’m going to take a new action to help even more responsible families stake their claim on the middle class and buy their first new home.” (Jan. 8, 2015)

How it would affect you: The proposal would cut insurance fees for homes bought with Federal Housing Administration-backed loans, saving borrowers an average of $900 a year.

Will it happen: Yes. The policy will be implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is under Obama’s control.

MORE Obama Cuts Mortgage Insurance Premiums to Help Low-Income Home Buyers

Expanding travel to Cuba

The idea: Obama called for normalizing relations with Cuba, a process he’s already started by easing travel and commercial restrictions with the island nation.

What he’s said: “Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born… I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” (Dec. 17, 2014)

How it would affect you: You will soon be able to catch a flight directly to Cuba without getting a special license, use credit and debit cards there and bring back cigars.

Will it happen: Mostly. Obama has already taken steps to restore relations with Cuba, although Congress is unlikely to lift the 54-year-old trade embargo anytime soon.

MORE U.S. And Cuba Move to Thaw Relations After Prisoner Exchange

Cutting methane emissions

The idea: Obama called for reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas industry by fixing leaky equipment and reducing “flaring” of natural gas.

What he’s said: Speaking about a photograph of Earth from space: “And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for.” (June 25, 2013)

How it would affect you: Depending on where you live, the proposal could raise your energy rates. It would also reduce a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Will it happen: Likely. The proposal is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard rules-making process, which Obama oversees.

MORE White House Targets Methane to Slow Climate Change

Preventing ‘fast lanes’ on the Internet

The idea: Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a utility, which would give regulators more power over providers like Comcast.

What he’s said: “High-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. … This is about helping local businesses grow and prosper and compete in a global economy. It’s about giving the entrepreneur, the small businessperson on Main Street a chance to compete with the folks out in Silicon Valley, or across the globe.” (Jan. 14, 2015)

How it would affect you: Some Internet providers want to offer so-called “fast lanes” for customers who pay more. This proposal would likely bar that.

Will it happen? Unclear. The FCC is an independent agency, but Obama’s backing gives the idea much more prominence in the debate.

MORE All Your Questions About Obama’s Internet Plan Answered

Notifying consumers of data hacks

The idea: Obama called on Congress to pass the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, which would require companies to notify customers within 30 days if they’d been hacked.

What he’s said: “If we’re going to be connected, then we need to be protected. As Americans, we shouldn’t have to forfeit our basic privacy when we go online to do our business.” (Jan. 12, 2015)

How it would affect you: Over the last year, JPMorgan Chase, Target, Home Depot and P.F. Chang’s have all had data breaches. You might hear sooner about those if they affect you.

Will it happen: Unclear. Many states already require companies notify affected customers, so it’s not too heavy of a lift to call for a national standard.

MORE The One Foolproof Thing You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Making community college free

The idea: Obama proposed the federal government work with states to offer two years of free community-college tuition to students who maintain good grades.

What he’s said: “For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class because they’re local, they’re flexible. They work for people who work full-time. They work for parents who have to raise kids full-time. They work for folks who have gone as far as their skills will take them and want to earn new ones…” (Jan. 9, 2015)

How it would affect you: If you’re looking to go to community college, you could save $3,800 a year on tuition. You could then use existing financial aid programs for housing and books.

Will it happen: Unlikely. Congressional Republicans are not likely to go along with the plan, which would cost up to $60 billion over 10 years.

MORE Obama Proposes 2 Years of Free Community College

Offering paid sick leave

The idea: Obama called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would require companies to offer workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

What he’s said: “There are 43 million Americans who don’t get paid sick leave, which when you think about it is a pretty astonishing statistic. And that means that no matter how sick they are, or how sick a family member is, they may find themselves having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children.” (Jan. 15, 2015)

How it would affect you: Right now, most employers are required to offer up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for family health problems, but many workers can’t afford to take it.

Will it happen: Unlikely. Hill Republicans are unlikely to even allow a vote on the bill, which had only Democratic sponsors in the last Congress.

MORE President Obama Wants You to Get Paid, Even When You’re on Leave

Read next: Here’s the Full Text of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY Travel

How Traveling to Cuba Just Got Easier

150115_FF_TravelCubaEasier
View from hotel Los Jazmines, Viñales Valley, Pinar del RÌo province, Cuba. Alvaro Leiva—agefotostock

New, more lenient rules for visiting the country go into effect on Friday.

On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments issued new rules governing how Americans can legally travel to Cuba. The announcement comes about a month after President Obama ordered the resumption of diplomatic relations with the country on December 17.

Here are the new travel-related details, which take effect Friday:

1. While tourism to Cuba is still technically banned, U.S. travelers will now be able go to the country for any of a dozen reasons, all without—and this is the big change—getting a special license from the government. The allowable reasons have remained the same and include, among others, educational and religious travel, visiting family, and people-to-people trips, which focus on allowing Americans to interact with Cubans and learn more about the island’s culture. Previously, any person or group wanting to visit the island had to prove that their trip would meet the government’s strict standards. Now, if you’re traveling for one of the approved reasons, you’ll just be able to book and go. (It’s worth noting that, despite the low burden of proof, The Washington Post reports that an administration official says travelers who disregard the categories will be penalized.)

2. U.S. airlines and travel agents will no longer need a special government license to book travel to Cuba. That could mean that airlines will soon begin offering scheduled flights to the country.

3. American travelers can now use their credit and debit cards in Cuba.

4. Visitors will be able to bring back $400 worth of goods, including up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco products (including Cuban cigars). According to USA Today, Americans visiting Cuba were previously permitted to spend only $188 a day. Now that cap will be lifted.

Ready to book your trip? Here are 5 things you should know before you go.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Eases Restrictions on Travel to Cuba

Cuba Havana US travel
A pedicab ("bicitaxi" in Cuba) with a national flag of the United States is seen in Havana, on Jan. 7, 2015. Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty Images

Will make it easier for people and companies to do business in Cuba

The United States announced Thursday that it was easing restrictions on travel and commerce in Cuba, in the first step of President Barack Obama’s plan to thaw relations between the two countries.

The new measures, which take effect on Friday, authorize airlines to fly to Cuba and allow Americans to visit Cuba without first obtaining a special license if they are traveling for any of more than a dozen reasons, including family visits, journalism and sports. They also expand the list of goods that can be exported to Cuba and authorize financial institutions to operate more widely in Cuba.

The announcement on Thursday marked the first tangible step by the U.S. to normalize relations between the two countries since Obama unexpectedly began the shift in policy last month after decades of tension with Cuba.

“Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.

TIME Cuba

Cuba Releases 53 Political Prisoners as Part of U.S. Deal

Military guards at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, Cuba in 2013.
Military guards at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, Cuba in 2013. Franklin Reyes—AP

The move clears a major hurdle for the normalization of ties between the two countries

(ISLAMABAD) — Cuba has completed the release of 53 political prisoners that was part of last month’s historic deal between the United States and Cuba, the Obama administration said Monday. The move clears a major hurdle for the normalization of ties between the two countries after more than five decades of estrangement.

The prisoners had been on a list of opposition figures whose release was sought as part of the U.S. agreement last month with the Cuban government. They had been cited by various human rights organizations as being imprisoned by the Cuban government for exercising internationally protected freedoms or for their promotion of political and social reforms in Cuba.

Speaking in Louisville, Kentucky, President Barack Obama’s U.N. ambassador said the prisoners were released in recent days. “Welcome as that step is, and heartening as it is for their families, (it) does not resolve the larger human rights problems on the island,” Samantha Power said, according to prepared remarks.

Earlier, an official traveling with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Islamabad said the U.S. verified the release.

Power was speaking Monday at an event hosted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. She outlined issues which the administration and the Republican-led Congress could work together on and issues they remained further apart on.

Both sides want to advance freedom in Cuba, she said, but they disagree on strategy.

“Some of the embargo’s staunchest defenders are Democrats and Republicans with deep ties to the island — people whose families came to America fleeing the Castros’ repression,” Power explained. “These are men and women who are completely dedicated to doing all they can to ensure that Cubans on the island get to enjoy true freedom. So it is important to acknowledge that while there may be disagreements on the best way to get there, we share a common goal of advancing the rights of the Cuban people.”

Power said changes already are occurring in Cuba. When Cuban artist Tania Bruguera and other activists were detained after announcing an anti-government event in Havana’s historic Revolution Square, she said, nearly 300 Cuban artists signed a letter supporting her freedom.

“In spite of genuine fear, Cubans were speaking out,” Power said. “And the Castro government was forced to explain why it would rather arrest a woman than let her speak freely in a public square.

Last month, Cuba and the U.S. agreed to work to restore normal diplomatic relations as part of a deal in which Cuba freed an imprisoned U.S. aid worker along with an imprisoned spy working for the U.S. and the imprisoned dissidents. The U.S. released several Cuba intelligence agents.

“Certainly, for those 53 prisoners, it’s a great deal. We don’t know who they are,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in an appearance Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

Rubio said he supports improving ties with Cuba but said he’s worried that the Cubans are getting virtually everything they want from the United States for “these minimal changes.”

He said he wants to be certain that improved relations between Washington and Havana provides equal benefits to the U.S.

“My interest in Cuba is freedom and democracy,” he said. Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who’s considering a run for the presidency, said there is “no current example” around the world where a “government of resistant tyranny” has moved to greater freedom and democracy as a result of changes in international relations that are based on economic incentives.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 8, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Charles Mostoller‘s series on teen horseback riders in urban Philadelphia. The photographer documented young men, working at the stables southwest, who take care of the horses, clean the facilities and earn a little bit of pocket money by offering cheap pony rides. Their main reward, though, is the right to take the horses out themselves. Mostoller’s pictures offer a fascinating glimpse into these young cowboys, riding in one of the most unexpected settings: the concrete jungle.

Charles Mostoller: The Concrete Cowboys of Philadelphia (The Wall Street Journal)

Anonymous and Meridith Kohut: Cuba’s Economic Fortunes May be Slow to Turn (The New York Times) These photographs capture Cuba’s capital, desperately awaiting change.

Celebrating 80 Years of Associated Press’ Wirephoto (TIME LightBox) A look back at the history of Associated Press’ Wirephoto.

Why it pays to work the fringes (Columbia Journalism Review) Insightful look at Lynsey Addario’s biography, It’s What I Do.

2014 and Beyond: Philip Montgomery (American Photo) The magazine picks Montgomery as one of the top talents to follow in the years to come.

TIME Cuba

Cuba Frees Three People Believed to be on U.S. Political Prisoner List

Military guards at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, Cuba in 2013.
Military guards at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, Cuba in 2013. Franklin Reyes—AP

Cuba has pledged to release 53 political prisoners as part of a deal with Washington

The Cuban government freed three detainees Wednesday in the latest sign of thawing relations between Havana and longtime foe the U.S.

The released trio are believed to be on a list of 53 political prisoners Washington wants to see freed in the socialist Caribbean island-state, Reuters reports.

Cuba has pledged to release all 53 as part of a deal to renew diplomatic relations between the two countries.

According to Cuban human rights activists, the government released 19-year-old Diango Vargas and twin brother Bianco Vargas Martin who were arrested in Dec. 2012 and sentenced to 30 months in prison for threatening a state official and disorderly conduct.

Activists said another man, Enrique Figuerola Miranda, was also freed.

All three were members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) opposition group.

[Reuters]

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