Not So Fast, Bay Area—Don't Book Your New Year's in Havana Quite Yet

Scott Lucas | December 17, 2014 | Story Politics

This morning, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, opening an embassy there after more than five decades of estrangement. The breakthrough comes after 18 months of secret talks between the two countries, and with the diplomatic encouragement of Pope Francis, who hosted a meeting at the Vatican. Here’s everything you need to know in the Bay Area about the historic move.

Can I finally live out my dream of making a shot-by-shot remake of The Godfather Part II on location in Cuba this New Year’s Eve?
Eventually, but don’t go jumping on Expedia just yet. Travel restrictions between the two countries have not yet been lifted. For now, the United States will re-establish an embassy, remove Cuba from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, and send a delegation to begin talks on issues such as narcotics, the environment, and human trafficking. Ordinary tourism remains prohibited, although exemptions will remain for things like family visits, journalism, religious activities, and public performances.We just tried to book flights on a few of the major online booking sites, and they told us that direct flights were still prohibited. So basically, sneak in through Mexico City the way you did before the announcement. Travel companies are getting ready, though, with the CEO Of Orbitz saying he looks "forward to the day—hopefully soon—when all Americans have the opportunity to travel to Cuba,"

What about cigars?
Really asking the important questions here, aren’t you? Consider what this means in the context of the grand sweep of history, the future of geopolitical discourse, the complex intricacy of high-level diplomacy.

Yeah, okay, but seriously—cigars?
The trade embargo remains in place, because only Congress can reverse it. Obama said he’d be open to a repeal of it in the future, though. For now, American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 in goods from Cuba, including $100 in tobacco and alcohol. Banking remittances to Cuban nationals will be increased from the current limit of $500 every three months to $2,000.

And, wait, the Pope had something to do with today’s news?
According to USA Today, Francis was the “only other foreign leader directly involved in the talks.” Though most of the discussions over the last year and a half were held in Canada, one session took place at the Vatican, and the Pope wrote two personal letters—one to Obama and one to Raul Castro—in the fall.

How have people been reacting locally?
On Twitter, Congressmember Jackie Speier praised the news, writing, “We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a new result.” Representative Barbara Lee, a longtime critic of US-Cuba policy, also praised the news.

Does this mean Democrats just lost Miami in the next election?
Maybe! (Whoever runs probably won't be getting an endorsement from Marco Rubio, either.) But Cuban-Americans' attitudes toward the embargo have been changing of late, so it may not end up being a huge problem.

So, Cuba Libres tonight?
Coca-Cola, lime juice, light rum. Hasta la victoria siempre, comrade.

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