TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 18

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

U.S. Links North Korea to Hack

American officials have determined the government of North Korea is connected to the hack that left Sony Entertainment Pictures reeling and eventually prompted it to pull The Interview, a movie critical of the country’s leader

Understanding the Sony Hack

Everything to know about the massive hack against Sony that prompted it to nix The Interview

U.S., Cuba Make Nice

The U.S. and Cuba will work to normalize diplomatic relations for the first time in half-century, after the release of an American prisoner

Everything We Know as Serial’s Season One Ends

As the 12th installment of Serial downloads on countless phones Thursday morning, a common question will reverberate through curious minds: Did he do it? Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee on that January day back in 1999?

Elton John to Wed Longtime Partner David Furnish

The pair entered a civil partnership in 2005, but in recent weeks, rumors have run rampant about impending nuptials. Various outlets have reported that a private, intimate ceremony will take place at their Windsor estate on Dec. 21

NOAA Arctic Report Card Short on Good News

This year’s Arctic Report Card, a NOAA-led work by 63 authors, reports a continuation of Arctic warming: Alaska is seeing temperature anomalies more than 18 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the January average and temperatures are rising in region’s seas

Most of the World Is Living Longer

Life expectancy across the globe has increased by more than six years since 1990 to 71.5 years, according to a new study published Wednesday. Medical funding for fighting infectious diseases has grown since 1990 and helped drive the improvement

Scientists Spot Drugs That Could Treat Ebola

Scientists have identified 53 existing drugs that could be effective in fighting Ebola, according to newly published research that came from screening drug compounds already available to see if they can treat the deadly disease

Peshawar Death Toll at 148 as Full Horror Emerges

With the death toll from Peshawar school massacre rising to 148 — at least 132 of them children — residents of this strife-torn Pakistani city, and survivors, are struggling to come to terms with Tuesday’s horror, in which Taliban gunman attacked an army-run school

NYC Rapper Bobby Shmurda Arrested

Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda was arrested in New York City on Wednesday, in connection with an investigation into street violence and drug trafficking in the city’s outer borough. Shmurda, whose real name is Ackquille Pollard, was taken into custody by investigators

Chicago Judge Rejects $75 Million NCAA Settlement

A Chicago judge on Wednesday rejected a $75 million settlement with the NCAA on player concussions, saying the funds allocated as part of the deal would potentially fall short and urging both parties to resume negotiations

Executions in the United States at 20 Year Low

Amidst a nationwide mediation on the future of the death penalty in the U.S., the nation reached a 20-year low in carried-out executions in 2014, the Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report

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Cubans Hope For a Better Future with U.S.–Havana Deal

Cuban students march in a street of Havana, on Dec. 17, 2014, after Washington released three Cuban spies -- heroes in Cuba-- who had been in a US prison since 2001. Roberto Morejon—AFP/Getty Images

Bells tolled in celebration and teachers halted lessons midday

HAVANA — Cubans cheered the surprise announcement that their country will restore relations with the United States, hopeful they’ll soon see expanded trade and new economic vibrancy even though the 53-year-old economic embargo remains in place for the time being.

“This opens a better future for us,” said Milagros Diaz, 34. “We have really needed something like this because the situation has been bad and the people very discouraged.”

Bells tolled in celebration and teachers halted lessons midday as President Raul Castro told his country Wednesday that Cuba would renew relations with Washington after more than a half-century of hostility.

Wearing his military uniform with its five-star insignia, the 83-year-old leader said the two countries would work to resolve their differences “without renouncing a single one of our principles.”

Havana residents gathered around television sets in homes, schools and businesses to hear the historic national broadcast, which coincided with a statement by U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington. Uniformed schoolchildren burst into applause at the news.

At the University of San Geronimo in the capital’s historic center, the announcement drew ringing from the bell tower. Throughout the capital, there was a sense of euphoria as word spread.

“For the Cuban people, I think this is like a shot of oxygen, a wish-come-true, because with this, we have overcome our differences,” said Carlos Gonzalez, a 32-year-old IT specialist. “It is an advance that will open the road to a better future for the two countries.”

Fidel and Raul Castro led the 1959 rebellion that toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The U.S. initially recognized the new government but broke relations in 1961 after Cuba veered sharply to the left and nationalized U.S.-owned businesses.

As Cuba turned toward the Soviet Union, the U.S. imposed a trade embargo in 1962. Particularly since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Cubans have confronted severe shortages of oil, food and consumer goods, forcing them to ration everything from beans to powdered milk.

The Cuban government blames most of its economic travails on the embargo, while Washington has traditionally blamed Cuba’s Communist economic policies.

In his address, Castro called on Washington to end its trade embargo which, he said, “has caused enormous human and economic damage.”

Ramon Roman, 62, said he hoped to see Cuba welcome more tourists. “It would be a tremendous economic injection, both in terms of money and in new energy and would be a boost for average people who need it,” he said.

Victoria Serrano, a lab worker, said she hoped to see an influx of new goods because life in Cuba has been “really very difficult.”

“In particular,” she said, “I hope we’ll see an improvement in food — that there is trade in this with the United States, which is so close. Right now, even an onion has become a luxury.”

Around the cathedral in Old Havana, people gathered in doorways and on sidewalks, gesturing excitedly as they discussed the news.

Guillermo Delgado, a 72-year-old retiree, welcomed the announcement as “a victory for Cuba because it was achieved without conceding basic principles.”

Yoani Sanchez, a renowned Cuban blogger critical of the government, noted the development came with a price. Castro, she said, could now claim a triumph and that he had made a “bargaining chip” of Alan Gross, the U.S. aid worker who was released from prison Wednesday while the U.S. freed three Cubans held as spies.

“In this way, the Castro regime has managed to get its way,” she wrote in a blog post. “It has managed to exchange a peaceful man, embarked on the humanitarian adventure of providing Internet connectivity to a group of Cubans, for intelligence agents that caused significant damage and sorrow with their actions.”

Some dissidents expressed their displeasure at not being consulted by the U.S. government about the historic move.

Dissident Guillermo Farinas considered the move a “betrayal” by Obama who, he said, had promised that they would be consulted. Another activist, Antonio Rodiles, said the measure “sends a bad message.”

Others, meanwhile, were cautious, saying they’ll wait and see what it all means.

“It’s not enough since it doesn’t lift the blockade,” said Pedro Duran, 28. “We’ll see if it’s true, if it’s not like everything here: one step forward and three steps back. For now, I don’t think there will be any immediate improvement after we’ve been living like this for 50 years.”

TIME Foreign Policy

‘A Slap in the Face': Pilots’ Families Balk at Cuban Prisoner Swap

Cuba Releases Alan Gross, Held In Prison For 5 Years
People stand outside the Little Havana restaurant Versailles, as they absorb the news that Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison and that U.S. President Barack Obama wants to change the United States Cuba policy on Dec. 17, 2014 in Miami, United States Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996

The South Florida families of pilots fatally shot down by Cuba in 1996 are speaking out against the Wednesday release of three members of the convicted spies known as the “Cuban Five” in a prisoner swap — among them one who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shootdown.

“For the only person that we had responsible for what happened to be let go — it’s a slap in the face to my dad,” Marlene Alejandre-Triana said at a news conference.

Alejandre-Triana’s father Armando Alejandre, a Vietnam veteran, was one of four pilots killed when Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996 in international waters…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Venezuela

Venezuelan President Calls Obama’s Outreach to Cuba ‘Courageous’

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) trade bloc annual presidential 47th summit in Parana
Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, right, gestures during the Southern Common Market trade bloc's annual presidential 47th summit in Paraná, Argentina, on Dec. 17, 2014 Enrique Marcarian—Reuters

Cuba’s staunch Latin American ally approves of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the old foes

U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba was nothing short of “courageous,” according to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Following dual announcements in Washington and Havana on Wednesday, the Venezuelan head of state openly lauded the new chapter in American-Cuba relations during a trade summit in Argentina’s southern city of Paraná.

“You have to recognize the gesture of Barack Obama, a gesture that is courageous and necessary,” said Maduro, according to Reuters.

Caracas has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Cuba since late President Hugo Chávez first rose to power in the country during the late 1990s.


TIME Music

Buena Vista Social Club Star Ry Cooder: Cuba Decision ‘Is What We’ve Been Hoping Obama Would Do’

The Buena Vista Social Club performs at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1998.
The Buena Vista Social Club performs at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1998. Stuart Ramson—AP

Ry Cooder, who recorded in Havana, says he expected openness between the U.S. and Cuba, but is optimistic nonetheless

Ry Cooder is the American guitar player involved with the so-called Buena Vista Social Club, a group of local musicians in Havana whose 1997 album led to global fame and a renewed interest in Cuban music. (That included limited touring in the U.S. before the Bush Administration halted the group’s visits stateside.) Reached by phone on Wednesday following the announcement that the Obama Administration would begin working to normalize diplomatic ties with Cuba, Cooder was not surprised, not least because he claims to have heard “through the grapevine” that President Barack Obama was planning something.

He was also aware of the effect the Club’s music, and other cultural exchanges, had piqued curiosity in Cuba that became impossible to ignore. “Pete Seeger suggested that music was a bridge between classes,” Cooder said, noting that after stateside fans of the Buena Vista Social Club wanted to visit Cuba, “You can’t go to people and say You can’t go there.

Were you surprised by the news of normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S.?

Well, it is what we’ve been hoping Obama would do. There was word we were getting through the grapevine that he was going to do something before he left office. When we saw he was doing work at that torture center at Guantánamo Bay, we figured he was doing something. We knew it was within his authority to declare such a thing. The embargo is no use. It only brought suffering to men, women and children, like embargoes always do. You ask yourself what venal, grasping, backward looking so and so’s—we could name a few—who benefit? Follow the money, as the man says. We are the only country that did this—and the whole thing was insane. Just stupid. So today, we’re all happy and pleased. You can’t turn back the clock. We, as a nation, have a lot of problems. But something good can come from all of this. I came downstairs this morning and my wife Susan, for once, said “a great thing just happened.” As opposed to all the things we despise!

Did you anticipate that this would happen someday, then, even before Obama’s election?

I did, I really did. I felt that one reason I felt I was somewhat optimistic—tempered by realism—was that after Buena Vista got done and got a Grammy and after the film was a worldwide hit, and we saw Ibrahim Ferrer—we knew, and saw the effect it was having on tourism in Cuba—you can’t go to people and say You can’t go there. They’re going to go anyway. You can’t turn back the clock. If people want to experience something and learn about it, you can’t keep saying no.

Our leading export is this myth of democracy we have. That’s the leading edge of our export efforts. So how can we say to the American people, You can’t do it? The people will go when they want to go! A lot of people went. It’s a trend, a tendency, something that can’t be stopped. The more people want to join up with other people—Pete Seeger suggested that music was a bridge between classes. He used folk music as a bridge because it’s common to people and it’s easy to learn. He could have people singing together within five minutes. And I’ve seen that happen many times, but never so graphically as within this Buena Vista thing. You may be afraid of Cuba. Are you afraid of Rubén González when he plays the piano? No? Well that’s one less thing you’re afraid of.

Ibrahim came to America, and we went to the food store: He’s standing there looking like himself and a nicely dressed woman, elegant, and sees him, the tears came and she started to sob. She saw who it was, the emotional response in the market, in the food line. All she could say was I wish my husband was here. A wonderful exampel of humanity, which touched people. One pretty tune is the same as the next one. It’s not the notes. Many people don’t know what’s being said. What he represented or seemed to radiate—you got this from the record and the film.

Music—it’s the bridge you cross immediately. Any threats, reprisals, hideous bureaucracy, flag-waving—it all dissolves.

Do you think there’ll be renewed cultural exchange between the U.S. and Cuba now?

It’s starting up. There was—Clinton, to some extent, tried to promote this people-to-people thing. When we asked for permission to go down and make records, it was under the auspices of that. It was tough going—the bureaucrats in the State Department were against it. We got, as far as I know, the only variance on a State Department visa for an individual, not a business. I have it still, and it’s interesting to look at, a State Department document signed by him.

We got into the Bush era, and they really clamped down. They let us know, Don’t ever try this again. The first thing we have to do is [get] rid of Guántanamo. But there will be good things happening—and they need all the help they can get.


I Get the Excitement, But This Deal Is Unfair to the Cuban People

Exclusive Screening And Panel Discussion With Showtime's "Ray Donovan" - Arrivals
Actor Steven Bauer on April 28, 2014 in North Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez—Getty Images

Steven Bauer is an actor best-known for his roles as Don Eladio on Breaking Bad, Avi on Ray Donovan, and Manny Ribera in Scarface. He immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba at age three.

I would love to see Cuba someday. But I don't want to walk the streets and know the people cannot leave.

My feelings are ambiguous today. It’s an exciting day, because anything that puts Cuba on our collective mind in the U.S. is a good day. I’m really, really happy—I can’t even imagine the joy that Alan Gross’s family feels. I grew up with children whose fathers were in prison for years upon years. Alan Gross and his family—for them, it’s a day to celebrate.

What I’m conflicted about is that I don’t see a request on our government’s part for the restrictions to be lifted by the Cuban government. The Cuban government has been oppressing Cuban people. Italians and Canadians can go there and have all the fun they want. And they can leave and their new Cuban friends can’t go with them. The Cubans cannot leave. It’s an ugly secret. It’s an untalked-about secret. It hasn’t been the U.S. oppressing the Cuban people!

The embargo was badly conceived. Everyone’s in agreement on that. It’s a policy that has not helped the Cuban people. They live like kings in the Cuban government. They always have. And the Cuban people live like cattle. People who go there say, “They’re so wonderful and joyful in spite of their poverty!” But they don’t need to be poor, they’re some of the brightest people on earth, as you can see by their achievements in medicine and the arts. The government wants to keep the status quo. It’d be wonderful for us to relieve the status quo. There has to be a give-and-take. Let them vote! How about that! Don’t just have a monarchy until the old men die, and the people they’re grooming to follow them follow them. It’s an archaic way of governing a people. This news is a move by our president to establish a legacy of opening relations. In and of itself, it’s no big deal, unless what you get in return is something really beautiful and something really humanistic. Unless what you get in return is an election.

Alan Gross did nothing wrong, so that was a horror of justice that he was in prison for five years. But instead of beginning from a position of strength, what we do is say, “Will you please return him and we give you criminals—Cuban spies guilty of killing Americans?” We’re leading with weakness. It’s a policy of appeasement instead of being a beacon of strength.

I see the celebration, I get the excitement, and I’m happy that Cuba’s in the news. It brings about dialogue. That’s a wonderful day in the relations between these countries. I would love to see Cuba someday. But I don’t want to walk the streets and know the people who I see, except the baseball players and ballet dancers, cannot leave.

Among members of the Cuban-American community, I’ve heard both sides. A lot of young people are not really interested. The people that have a celebratory response to this are not really informed. I hate to be cynical or denigrate those people, but they really don’t know what’s going on in Cuba. The people who have been to Cuba know this is an unfair deal for the Cuban people. It’s great for Obama to have a distraction from all the bad news elsewhere in the world, and it’s wonderful for Alan Gross and his family. It’s not good for the people who live under an oppressive government 90 miles away from the United States. Until Cubans can travel around the world, it won’t be a fair trade.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Viva Cuba Libre

A woman walks under a Cuban flag on March 22, 2012 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
A woman walks under a Cuban flag on March 22, 2012 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

This is an island crazy with energy, ready to join the rest of the world

Back in 1975, I traveled to Cuba with a group of American journalists led by the late Senator George McGovern. At noon one day, I sneaked into the main cathedral in Havana in search of dissidents. I found plenty, willing to talk about the depredations of the Castro regime. One man, who had been imprisoned by the regime, was particularly vehement when I asked him what the U.S. should do about Cuba: “Recognize us! Lift the embargo!” Castro would never be able to control the influence of American freedom and commerce on the Cuban people. He needed a satanic American enemy to maintain control. “Recognize us,” the man said, “and Fidel won’t last a year.” the man said.

I’ve never forgotten that conversation because it speaks to an essential truth in international affairs. “Non-recognition” is a relatively recent diplomatic ploy. It began in 1917, with the west’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Russian revolution. It has been attempted time after time–by the the United States against China and Cuba and Iran (and by Iran, vice versa, against us), and by the Arab states against Israel. And it has never worked. Non-recognition, at its heart, is a denial of reality.

Those who favor a continuation of our failed Cuba policy are a reflexive lot with a muddled argument. They’re the usual myopic tough guys–John McCain and Lindsey Graham immediately jumped on the President after his Cuba announcement today–who have no idea of the seductive power of the American way of life in the rest of the world. I can understand why the corroding Iranian regime would want to keep us out (a sign in Tehran: “When the Great Satan praises us, we shall mourn”). I’ve always thought: then let’s recognize the hell out of them. Let ‘em mourn. Let the Revolutionary Guard try to fend off Kanye West and Star Wars. Good luck with that.

Iran and Cuba have always been linked in my mind: they are the two countries in the world with the greatest mismatch between a government and its people. This is especially true in Cuba, where the people are brilliantly heterodox, fun-loving and creative–the wrong fodder for the grim discipline of Marxism, which has been a disaster there, as everywhere, a dry rot form of governance anxious to collapse.

I can understand the anger that still infects the oldest generation of Cuban-Americans–Marco Rubio’s parents and their friends, who were robbed and brutalized by the Castro regime. But their children and grandchildren are ready to reclaim their heritage, return to the island with an idea for a condo project or Juicy Couture franchise. This is an island crazy with energy, ready to join the rest of the world; the Castros have no future in such a place.

I’ll miss the atavistic charm of Havana, the ’50s cars kept beautifully alive, the gorgeous melodies of Cuban jazz–but nostalgia for a Museum of Communism should not prevent Cubans from finding their way to prosperity and eventually, one hopes, freedom.

So Congratulations, President Obama, on finally ending a foolish chapter in American diplomacy. Tonight, I’ll break out the rum and do a little Victor Cruz touchdown dance to the mambo beat of the Buena Vista Social Club.


Fidel Loses the Race to the Grave

Castro Leads Massive Anti-U.S. Demo
Fidel Castro delivering a speech in Havana on May 14, 2004 Jorge Rey—Getty Images

It's fitting that the thaw was brokered by a president who wasn't alive when Castro came to power

The world now has the answer to a question as old as the New World Order: Which would die first? Fidel Castro? Or the chokehold his angry critics maintained on U.S. foreign policy since El Comandante came to power in Cuba 55 years ago? It was entirely fitting that the answer was delivered by an American president whose own age is 53. As he noted in his historic address from the White House on Wednesday, Barak Obama was born two years after Castro’s Communist guerrillas swept into Havana. Like the children and grandchildren of the Cubans who fled to Miami after the Communists arrived, the events Obama actually lived through were the ones that steadily reduced the island from a marquee venue of the Cold War — the thrust stage from which, in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, armageddon was nearly launched — to whatever the place qualifies as today: basically a scenic relic of Marxism, with beaches and cigars.

Other stout lobbies remain as present as their animating issue: The NRA likely will be around as long as gun owners are, and the Israel lobby as long as the state. But the U.S. government’s determined, and solitary isolation of Cuba was, as Obama alluded, a victim of generational change. The collapse of the Soviet Union, so thrillingly dramatic, was followed by the more gradual senescence of those who had invested most in opposing its most famous client state.

Time waits for no man, not even Fidel. El Commandante, now 88, is still around, and as recently as 2010 was still capable of stirring the pot. He opened the Havana Aquarium and commanded a dolphin show for a visiting U.S. journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, whom Fidel then told, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more.” The regime that Fidel once made a model of resistance to U.S. dominance is now run by his 83-year-old kid brother. It was Raul Castro who spoke from Havana at the same moment Obama made his historic address at noon Wednesday, the two speeches pre-arranged by the leaders’ staffs to begin at the same hour, signaling both sides’ commitment to a new era of cooperation.

But the Cuban side appeared to be locked in that other era: Raul Castro was seated between dark paneling and a massive desk. The framed snapshots at his elbows were in black and white — the kind of vintage photographs that adorn the Hotel Nacional at the edge of the magnificent ruin that is Havana’s Old City. The glossies in the hotel are there for the tourists, images of the like of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack making themselves at home in a version of Havana glamour familiar to Americans who — forbidden by the travel restrictions Obama says will be pushed away — last saw the city in The Godfather Part II, or any other movie set in Cuba before Castro took over.

The reality just outside the hotel’s doors is far more compelling, from the ardent struggles of human rights activists and artists, to the joyously sensual quality of street life in what may well be the sexiest capital city in the world. Americans who dared to visit — it wasn’t hard, routing through Canada or Cancun — returned with enthusiastic reports of a poor but intensely vibrant society. Its economy may be a shambles now, but the island’s physical features alone, including 2,300 miles of Caribbean coastline not an hour from the U.S., all but assure development, especially by American retirees. Which would be fitting as well, since they would be old enough to appreciate just how time can change things.

TIME stocks

Cruise Line Shares Sail Higher as U.S., Cuba Relations Improve

Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014.
Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Investors place bet on cruise operator shares even though tourism is still banned

Shares of cruise-line operators sailed to big gains on Wednesday as investors placed a bet that improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba could lead to new opportunities for tourism.

Shares of Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean all rose in early trading Wednesday, outpacing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after the Obama administration said it plans to lift many of its existing travel restrictions on Cuba.

The new regulations will make it easier for Americans to visit to Cuba under the 12 categories of travel that are currently allowed, The Wall Street Journal reported, though it isn’t immediately clear if or when the island will be open for mass tourism. Some kinds of tourism are still banned, according to various media reports,.

Still, Cuba is appealing to companies with the most to gain from the increased travel. The tropical island’s attractive beaches and proximity to the United States makes it a potential vacation hotspot. The Caribbean is already the largest cruise line market in the world, and Americans hop on the industry’s bulky ships more than any other nation.

Some of the cruise line operators already have strong links to the Caribbean. For example, nearly all of Norwegian’s ships serve the region. The Caribbean also makes up roughly 35% of Carnival’s passenger capacity, more than any other region. That means that if the U.S. were to allow its citizens to freely visit Cuba, many of the cruise industry’s ships are already in prime position to dock at Havana and other Cuban cities.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

Bacardi, Exiled From Cuba in 1960, Is Hopeful for Change

A limited-edition bottle of BACARDI Superior rum on Dec. 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
A limited-edition bottle of BACARDI Superior rum on Dec. 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida. John Parra—Getty Images/2013 John Parra

The rum maker says it supports the restoration of human rights in Cuba

Bacardi, the spirits maker that was founded in Cuba and later exiled from the country in 1960, says it hopes for better lives for Cubans following the Obama Administration’s decision to normalize diplomatic relations with the Caribbean island.

“We hope for meaningful improvements in the lives of the Cuban people and will follow any changes with great interest,” Bacardi said in an e-mailed statement. “In the meantime, we continue to support the restoration of fundamental human rights in Cuba.”

Bacardi says it’s taking a wait-and-see approach on Cuba after the United States on Wednesday said it would open an embassy on the island nation following the release of a U.S. government subcontractor from prison. It marked the most significant change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship in decades.

Bacardi, which makes rum, Dewar’s Scotch and Grey Goose vodka, has close historic ties to Cuba even though it hasn’t operated there for more than five decades. The company was founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, and in 1910, became the nation’s first multi-national company when it opened bottling operations in Spain.

When Prohibition started in 1920, Cuba and Bacardi benefited from increased influx of Americans to the island for a stiff drink.

But relations between the company and Cuba soured greatly in 1960, when Bacardi’s operations were nationalized by the government following the Communist takeover there. At that point, Bacardi had operations in five other countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, and was able to bounce back. The company is now headquartered in Bermuda, but still touts its Cuban history.

“Bacardi is proud of its Cuban roots,” a company representative said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have the utmost respect and sympathy for the Cuban people with whom we share a common heritage.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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