OBAMA ANNOUNCES MAJOR CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY WITH COMMUNIST CUBA!

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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama attends Cuban Independence Day celebrations in Miami

The Obama administration is moving to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana, after American Alan Gross was released from the communist country Wednesday following five years in prison.

Sources say President Obama also plans to call on Congress to lift the long-standing embargo on Cuba. Together, the announcements would mark the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades and effectively end the half-century freeze in relations between the two countries.

Senior administration officials said Obama spoke with Cuban leader Raul Castro for more than 45 minutes on Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961. Both Obama and Castro were to separately address their nations around noon Wednesday.

Obama also plans to take several executive actions, including expanding travel and economic ties to the island. According to a White House document, the U.S. government would raise remittance levels and authorize certain travel to Cuba, as well as start of review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Obama also has formally directed the State Department to launch talks with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, which were cut in 1961. The embassy in Havana would be opened “in the coming months,” according to the White House.

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Top Photo-REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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