The United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba in 1902, opening the first U.S. Embassy in Havana in 1923. Later it was moved to the building that it currently occupies, opened in 1953. The Embassy was closed in 1961 when the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. During President Carter’s administration in 1977, the United States and Cuba signed an agreement establishing the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana, and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC. Both diplomatic missions operated under the protection of the Embassy of Switzerland.
During the term of President Obama, diplomatic ties between the two countries were resumed with the Embassy of the United States of America re-opening in Havana and the Cuban embassy re-opening in Washington, D.C. Diplomatic relations were officially established on July 20, 2015. John Kerry became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years when he came to Havana for the U.S. Embassy’s flag raising ceremony on August 14, 2015.
President Obama visited Cuba March 21-22, 2016, the first visit of a sitting U.S. President in almost 90 years, since President Calvin Coolidge had visited in 1928. During his second term in office, commercial flights and cruise ship travel between the United States and Cuba also resumed, as well as direct mail delivery. Several agreements were also assigned between the United States and Cuba to collaborate on various topics, including health, environment, drug and human trafficking, and telecommunications.
In June 2017, President Donald J. Trump changed U.S. policy toward Cuba to achieve four objectives:
- Enhance compliance with United States law—in particular the provisions that govern the embargo of Cuba and the ban on tourism;
- Hold the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses ignored under the Obama policy;
- Further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and those of the Cuban people; and
- Lay the groundwork for empowering the Cuban people to develop greater economic and political liberty.
These objectives were described in detail in President Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba, or NSPM. In November 2017, regulations were amended to implement changes to the Cuba sanctions program.