Cuba Libre
November 26, 2016

"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people," President Obama said in a response to the former Cuban president's death on Saturday. "We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

The carefully worded comments went on to offer sympathy to Castro's loved ones and express hope for improved future relations between the U.S. and Cuba. As the Cuban people "recall the past and also look to the future," Obama concluded, they "must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."

For more on Castro's Cuba, read The Week's guide to everything you need to know. Bonnie Kristian

February 16, 2016

U.S. and Cuban officials signed a pact Tuesday restoring commercial flights between the two nations, Time reports. The deal, arranged in December, means scheduled air travel between the two nations will be possible for the first time in more than 50 years, when relations worsened during the Cold War.

"We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers, and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

U.S. airlines must submit Cuban route proposals to the government by March 2. The Transportation Department is expected to make approvals by mid-March, allowing up to 110 round trips between the U.S. and Cuba each day. Julie Kliegman

July 7, 2015

For the first time since the 1960 trade embargo, it just might be possible to take a cruise to Cuba. The world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corp., announced Tuesday that it plans to offer trips to Cuba, departing from Miami. The cruises will be weeklong stints aboard the Adonia, a smaller ship that carries 710 passengers.

But don't light up that cigar and pour a glass of rum just yet: These cruises won't be vacations. Rather, the Cuban cruises will be a part of Carnival's newest brand, fathom, which sails passengers to a destination to do volunteer work. The cruise ship would only be allowed to stop at a specified county in Cuba, so passengers wouldn't necessarily be getting a full tour of the Caribbean island nation, either.

At this point, the cruise itinerary is not yet approved by the Cuban government. If Cuba approves Carnival's proposal, prices for the trip will start at $2,990. Becca Stanek

July 4, 2015

JetBlue ran its first official direct flight from New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport to Havana's José Martí International Airport on Friday, the first in a planned series of weekly charter flights.

It's the first major airline to do so, though smaller outfit Sun Country was the first to start servicing the two cities, Time reports.

JetBlue also runs flights to Cuba from Florida cities following the easing of travel restrictions earlier this year as the two nations work to restore diplomatic ties after half a century without relations. Julie Kliegman

May 29, 2015

The U.S. formally removed Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism Friday, according to a State Department news release.

The White House first announced this move last month. In a December 2014 step toward normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba after 50 years, President Barack Obama ordered the department to review the nation's inclusion on the list.

"While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation," department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in the release. Julie Kliegman

April 10, 2015

At a hotel bar in Panama City on Thursday night, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez sat and talked for two hours, in the highest-level U.S.-Cuba talks since Vice President Richard Nixon and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro met in April 1959. That record is likely to be brief, as President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are expected to have some sort of interaction at the Summit of the Americas, starting Friday in Panama.

The State Department didn't say much about the meeting, other than that it went well. "Secretary Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez had a lengthy and very constructive discussion this evening," a senior official tells Reuters. "The two agreed they made progress and that we would continue to work to resolve outstanding issues." One expected topic was the U.S. taking Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move the State Department reportedly recommended earlier Thursday. Reuters has photos of the Kerry-Rodriguez meeting in the video below. —Peter Weber

April 2, 2015

Watch out, Havana: The (North) Americans are coming. Starting Thursday, Airbnb will list 1,000 properties throughout Cuba, The Associated Press reports, with 40 percent of the rentals in Havana and the rest scattered throughout other tourist destinations on the island. Airbnb has spent three months lining up apartments and houses, but the idea is apparently nothing new in Cuba.

"We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb's biggest markets in Latin America," said Airbnb regional director Kay Kuehne. "We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago." Some other U.S. businesses have entered the Cuban market since President Obama and Cuba's leaders started unfreezing relations in January, but this expansion will probably have the most impact on Cuba's citizens. For now, only U.S. Airbnb customers can book rooms in Cuba. Peter Weber

January 12, 2015

Havana has freed all 53 prisoners agreed to under a deal reached by President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the Cuban government told Washington over the weekend and U.S. diplomats verified, a U.S. government official tells The Associated Press and Reuters. Cuba following through on its promise should help bring to fruition the historic thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations agreed to by Obama and Castro.

Neither Cuba nor the Obama administration has released the names of the 53 political prisoners, but the U.S. official says the White House will release the names to Congress, with the expectation that Congress will release the names to the public. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a dissident group, says it knows of only 39 people freed since the U.S.-Cuba deal was announced on Dec. 17. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads