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After five decades of hostility, what’s next for U.S. and Cuba

Now that relations have been officially normalized, what’s next for diplomacy between Cuba and the United States? Judy Woodruff gets insight from María de los Angeles Torres of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on the resumption of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, we turn to Maria de Los Angeles Torres. She's a Cuban-born American and a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where she is also executive director of the school's program on Latino research.

    Ms. Torres, thank you very much for joining us.

    First of all, how would you describe this new relationship? How is it going to be different from diplomatic relations the U.S. has with other countries?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES, University of Illinois at Chicago: Well, I think it's going to — first of all, there's 50 years of hostility, and I think that it's almost like the day after the storm.

    Right now, we have to see how many trees have fallen down and what we're going to do with that. I think, also, because of the intimate relationship that the United States has had with Cuba, the fact that there are many Cubans living in the United States, the fact there are many other Cubans who would like to come to the United States, I think that there will be a unique set of challenges.

    The regime has not changed. I don't think this policy is going to change the regime. It will, however, I think, help in what could be a peaceful transition.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What sort of restrictions are still going to be there for Americans who want to travel to Cuba? Where do you see that headed?

  • MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES:

    Well, part of this is codified in law through Congress. I do not see that Congress is willing at this moment or any time at least in the immediate future to change the policy of the embargo.

    However, I think that this is going to allow a more porous, if you will, embargo. And we have already seen that happen. I think, in the last six months, we have seen there's been an uptick in travel to Cuba, that restrictions on how much money could be sent to relatives has actually been expanded, so there's more money going into Cuba.

    A lot of the small businesses that we see are actually being fueled by family members here in the United States, and I think, that we will see increased in the next few months.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, you see commerce increasing between the two countries?

  • MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES:

    Well, we already have.

    Cuba — the United States is the largest importer of goods to Cuba today, their agriculture and their pharmaceutical. This actually happened under the Bush administration. And as far as other kinds of activity, they are still going to be under the restriction of the embargo, which is congressional, but there will be other kinds of, I think, smaller kinds of businesses that are being allowed under executive order and under the power of the president.

    Most of these are coming from family members. That is why we are seeing all sorts of little businesses pop up and people supporting their family.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What is going to happen to the homes, to the property left behind many years ago by Cuban Americans who fled that country, who came here, who have been living in the United States, but who left a lot behind there?

  • MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES:

    Well, I think that all these issues are negotiable, right?

    And what we have not had in the past is a means through which to negotiate. I think the reestablishment of diplomatic relations opens up those channels. Whether or not these are things that are going to be put on the table I think is a little too early to tell.

    I would like to say I have been back to the home that I was raised in until 6 years of age, and the lady who's living in the home has tried to sell me that home several times over, actually, rather cheaply.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES:

    I wouldn't want to buy that home.

    So I think that there's — it's going to be interesting, but what we do have now is that channel through which we can put these issues on the table and negotiate them, and hopefully move forward in what we do with our enemies and our friends.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Maria de Los Angeles Torres at the University of Illinois at Chicago, we thank you.

  • MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES:

    Thank you, Judy.

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