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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

US and Cuba resume direct postal service after over half a century gap

After over a half century with no direct postal service between the U.S. and Cuba the two postal services will resume direct post. A pilot project will launch shortly but no date has been set for resumption of full service.

The move is part of a series of measures after US President Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced a renewal in relations back on December 17th of last year. Already, diplomatic ties have been established and embassies opened. The two countries began to re-establish postal relations back in 2013. Previously all mail to and from Cuba and the U.S. had to be routed through a third country, usually Mexico or Canada.
In March of this year, direct phone links were established between the two countries after a gap of 15 years. Calls previously were also routed through a third company making them quite expensive. The Cuban company Etecsa said: "The re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba contributes to providing better infrastructure and better communications quality between the people and our two countries." IDT Domestic Telecom in New Jersey will be Eteca's U.S. counterpart and said that the agreement would make it easier and more affordable for their American customers to call their friends and family still in Cuba.
The US broke off relations with Cuba back in 1959 after Fidel Castro with his brother Raul led a revolution and established a communist regime. While relations with the US have improved an embargo still exists but travel restrictions have been relaxed. Cuba insists that relations will not be fully normal until the US gives back Guantanamo Bay which is leased by the US in perpetuity:In 1934 a new Cuban-American Treaty of Relations reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and its trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. dollars, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to break it or until the U.S. abandoned the base property.The US has indicated it will stay in the naval base even if the prison there is closed as Obama promised when he was first elected president.
Estimates put the yearly loss to the U.S. economy from the embargo at $1.2 billion but over the years Cuba has suffered a loss of more than a trillion dollars. While Obama wants the embargo lifted this would need to be approved by the US Congress that is controlled by Republicans. However, relations between the two countries still seem to be slowly but steadily improving.

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