This afternoon [Dec. 17], President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation on the U.S. and Cuba’s decision to release three Cuban spy prisoners in exchange for American contractor, Alan P. Gross. Cuban president, Raul Castro is also scheduled for a press conference at the same time.

Hit the jump for the details.

JaaiR (JR)
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Check around 27:20 to hear Obama speak.


After five years of being held in a Cuban prison, Gross was released, which was the force wind behind the United States’ decision to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and to open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. Following Gross’ release was the release of three Cuban spies who had been housed in a U.S. prison since 2001. Officials say that Gross was not the BIG swap, but a U.S. intelligence agent was; one who had been prisoned for 20 years.

The diplomatic relations is a breakthrough assisted by Canada and Pope Francis. Over the course of 18-months, Obama and Castro has spoken to each other during a series of phone conversations and agreed that the U.S. would ‘ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government,’ says the New York Times.

“Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people,” the White House said in a written statement.

The first presidential discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961 will also allow U.S. debit and credit cards to be used in Cuba, U.S, travelers will be able to import $400 in goods from the country and more.

“This is being done because we believe the policy of the past has not worked and we believe the best way to bring democracy and prosperity to Cuba is through a different kind of policy,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call under White House ground rules that did not permit the official to be identified.

More details to come.

Check out the gallery for the 2013 meeting between Obama and Cuban president, Raul Castro.