TIME Colombia

Colombian Rebels Announce Unilateral Cease-Fire

COLOMBIA-FARC-ATTACK
A Colombian soldier stands guard in the town of Tame, Columbia on Aug. 25, 3013. Daniel Martinez—AFP/Getty Images

(HAVANA) — Colombian rebels at peace talks with government representatives in Cuba have announced an indefinite, unilateral cease-fire as long as military units don’t attack them.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia made the announcement in a communique published on its Twitter account Wednesday.

Representatives of the rebel group known as the FARC and the government since 2012 have held a series of talks in Havana aimed at ending the conflict of more the five decades.

TIME Cuba

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

TIME Travel

Twitter Laments the Certain ‘Ruin’ of Havana by Tourists

Thanks, Obama

Moments after President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. would begin restoring relationships with Cuba, which includes loosening the existing travel ban, the perpetual curmudgeons of the Twitterverse declared Havana in all its exclusive, un-commercialized glory officially over. Don’t even think about going there now, some users griped. And if you do, get there literally right now because hipsters are definitely going to ruin it.

Havana, so it seems, according to Twitter, will soon go the way of Brooklyn and the countless other cities effectively ruined by well-meaning yuppies and fanny-pack-donning tourists, who heard great things about a place from their one cool and/or worldly cousin on Facebook.

Take this as a fair warning. Book your flights now before the Starbucks, J.Crew, and McDonald’s pop up.

Others, however, were a bit more upbeat about the potential for more Americans to experience Cuba firsthand.

TIME diplomacy

15 Famous Cuban-Americans

Just 90 miles away from the United States, there are plenty of cross-cultural influences between the US and Cuba - despite political differences. Take a look at 15 famous Cuban-Americans whose heritage might surprise you

TIME diplomacy

The Vatican Helped Seal U.S.-Cuba Deal

Hosted secret talks between the two nations

The Vatican played a key role in securing the release of an American contractor held in Cuba for five years and in setting the stage for a cooling of relations between the two countries, officials said Wednesday.

Pope Francis encouraged the neighbors, who have not had diplomatic relations since the rise of Fidel Castro in 1961, to negotiate a deal, and even hosted secret talks at the Vatican between the two nations, Obama Administration officials said. Canada hosted many of the negotiations, until the final meeting at the Vatican.

The deal to release Alan Gross was finalized in a call between President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, but Obama noted that the Vatican was instrumental in brokering the make-up.

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal in a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States, and also encouraging the united states and cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” an official said, calling the papal letter “very rare. … The Vatican then hosted the U.S. and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we are making today.”

MORE: What to know about Alan Gross

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller / Washington

TIME Foreign Policy

How Pope Francis Helped Broker Cuba Deal

Pope Attends His Weekly Audience In St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis on Dec. 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

President Obama thanked Pope Francis for his role in negotiating a more open policy on Cuba and the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross from Cuban custody.

In a 15-minute speech announcing that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, Obama said that the pope helped spur the change and personally thanked him. The Vatican then released a statement noting that the Vatican hosted delegations from both countries in October to negotiate the deal after Pope Francis had written to both leaders.

A senior administration official said that the appeal from the Pope was “very rare” and unprecedented.

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal in a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” said the official. “The Vatican then hosted the US and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we are making today.”

American officials have also noted Francis’ deep familiarity with the Americas, being the first pope from the continent. The letter from Pope Francis “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward,” a white House official said. “Cuba was a topic of discussion that got as much attention as anything else the two of them discuss.”

The move is perhaps Pope Francis’ boldest foreign policy move yet, but it is not his first.

• He showed letter-writing prowess in September 2013, when he wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 Summit which Obama was attending, urging world leaders and the United States to oppose a military intervention in Syria.

• After visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem in May, Pope Francis hosted both Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican for a joint prayer service for Middle East Peace.

• When he visited South Korea in August, he sent a telegram to Chinese President Xi Jinping when the papal plane crossed into Chinese airspace—a historic step toward improved relations since the last time a pope visited East Asia, Chinese officials did not allow the plane to fly over Chinese territory.

When it comes to Cuba, Pope Francis is continuing the work of his predecessors. Just over half the Cuban population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center, and the Vatican stepped up its relations with the country over the past two decades. In 1998, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit Cuba. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012. At an outdoor mass, he urged Cuba to “build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity and which better reflects the goodness of God.”

The announcement of the Vatican’s role in the U.S.-Cuba negotiations is particularly noteworthy as Pope Francis plans his first trip to the United States in September 2015. The Vatican has not said whether or not Pope Francis will travel to Cuba or other US cities on that trip.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Changed Their Minds on Cuba

It used to be that national politicians of both parties would diligently travel to Florida during every election cycle and compete, in speeches and town hall meetings, over who could be more in favor of the embargo on Cuba.

It was, after all, common political sense: Cuban-Americans were, for decades, a fairly monolithic voting bloc and their feelings toward the embargo were unequivocal. They were for it. No ifs, ands, or maybes.

But in the last decade, all that has changed. The reason is shifting demographics—the same trend that rocketed President Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012 and that will do more to influence the outcome of 2016 than perhaps anything else.

Younger Cuban-Americans are less into the embargo than their parents’ generation, and much more in favor of relaxing laws to make it easier to travel and trade with the island.

This shifting dynamic is going to play out in 2016, too. In fact, it already has. Jeb Bush, who announced yesterday that he is considering a run for the White House, takes the old-school hardline position. He’s in favor of the embargo, full stop.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s position has evolved over the years. In 2000, when she was running for Senate, and in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination, she too took the old-school stance. In December 2007, she said rather clearly that the embargo was the law of the land, and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move toward democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy,” she said.

But then, as Secretary of State, her position began to crack, and then soften, and then flip entirely. She called on Obama to take a second look at the embargo, which she argued was actually helping Fidel and Raul Castro, not Americans. “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” she said in a 2010 speech in Kentucky.

And in her 2014 book, Hard Choices, she backs up that view: “I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.” In July this year, in an interview, she came right out and called the embargo “a failure.”

Jeb Bush’s hardline position and Hillary Clinton’s evolving one is a reflection of the larger demographic shifts happening the U.S. today.

Bush, if he runs, will no doubt lock down the older, more conservative Cuban-American vote, while Clinton, if she runs, will be in a position to lock down the younger, hipper, more liberal Cuban-American contingent.

So who wins? Right now, it’s a toss up. According to a 2014 poll by the Cuban Research Institute, 53 percent of Cuban-American registered voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed the normalization of diplomatic relations. But if you bore down a bit on the issues, it seems to lean heavily toward the Democrats: 90% of young Cuban-Americans are in favor of reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba; 68% of older Cuban-Americans share that view too.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge majority for it to make sense to Democrats to change positions. It just has to be more competitive than it used to be, and it now is.

TIME Pakistan

School Massacre Unites Pakistan Against the Taliban

Shoes lie in blood on the auditorium floor at the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar, Dec. 17, 2014.
Shoes lie in blood on the auditorium floor at the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar, Dec. 17, 2014. Fayaz Aziz—Reuters

As the 141 children and teachers who were killed in Pakistan’s deadliest terrorist attack at a school in Peshawar were buried by their bereft parents and relatives on Wednesday, the deep sadness and grief that has affected everyone in Pakistan gave way to outrage against the Pakistani Taliban militants who took responsibility for the attack.

In a rare show of unity, Pakistan’s political leaders came together to declare that they were setting aside their rivalries to unite behind a joint plan to eliminate terrorism. The country’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said all militants were now targets, which marked a significant break from Pakistan’s history of backing militants such as the Afghan Taliban while attacking the Pakistan Taliban, what many in the West have criticized as Pakistan’s “double game.”

The mood in Peshawar was somber after the funerals. Pakistanis from all over the country traveled to the city to offer their condolences. Small crowds chanted slogans in protest, while others quietly sat with grieving families. In Pakistan’s other cities, people gathered to hold solemn candlelight vigils, bearing placards that mourned the dead and demanded action against their killers.

Ali Sajid, 34, a painter in Peshawar, said that the entire city is consumed by sadness and anger. He had seen several terrorist attacks before but this time the militants targeted children. “This will definitely change things,” says Sajid. “I think this city has bled enough, and rendered many sacrifices.” Now, he added, “the government and the security forces should launch an offensive against the militants and force them to perish.”

“There will be no distinction between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Taliban,” Sharif said at a press conference after meeting with leaders of rival political parties.

“Everyone is in tears,” says Daniyal Aziz, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. “This is a defining moment for Pakistan. The sadness has turned into anger very quickly.”

Sharif won the support of such inveterate opponents as former cricketer Imran Khan, who has spent the past six months leading street protests aimed at pushing the Prime Minister out of power. At the height of those protests, Khan even challenged Sharif to a public duel. On Wednesday, they were sitting side by side at Wednesday’s political conference in Peshawar and referring to each other in respectful tones. Khan later abandoned his party’s nationwide protests against the government in a demonstration of national unity.

The fallout from the Peshawar massacre shows just how far Pakistan has come over the past 18 months. Back then, both Sharif and Khan had been trying to court the Taliban to get them to sign a peace agreement. Now, like the secular politicians they once criticized, they have resolved that there can be no reconciling with the murderers of children. “There are moments, like this tragedy, when it becomes incumbent on everyone to come together,” Khan told journalists at the press conference.

The Pakistan military, which ran the school that was attacked, launched airstrikes on militant targets in the tribal areas along the Afghan border on Tuesday night. Gen. Raheel Sharif, the army chief, flew to Kabul with his intelligence chief to demand that Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be hiding in eastern Afghanistan, be handed over. There is greater cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. now, too, with drone strikes targeting Pakistani Taliban bases in Afghanistan on Tuesday night.

Some observers are wary. There have been many false dawns before when Pakistanis first thought that large-scale terrorist tragedies would mark a turning point before the political resolve dissipated. But many are confident that the massacre in Peshawar has changed Pakistan forever. “We hope that this is the case,” says Sherry Rehman, an opposition politician and former ambassador to Washington. “It’s the only thing that can be done.”

But if the deaths of so many children at school cannot change Pakistan, then nothing will. “This is now make or break,” Rehman said. “It’s really a point of no return.”

In defiance of the anger from Peshawar, Mohammad Khurasani, the Taliban spokesman, warned Pakistan to expect more attacks on military targets: “We are still able to carry out major attacks. This was just the trailer,” he said on Wednesday. Pakistan’s resolve remains strong but it will likely suffer many more deaths before it achieves peace.

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