The United States and Cuba have announced the reopening of embassies in their capitals Havana and Washington. The two states will restore full diplomatic relations and open new embassies on July the 20th. The agreement represents a major step in US-Cuba relations, which were largely discontinued in 1959 after Fidel Castro led a socialist revolution that ousted US supported President, Fulgencio Batista.

Relations between the two countries have been improving recently. In December 2014, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro agreed to normalise relations, and in April 2015 the two leaders met in Panama; the first face-to-face discussion between American and Cuban leaders in over fifty years.

In May, the US revoked Cuba's status as a sponsor of terrorism, and began negotiations to resume ferry and air services between the two nations. However, a travel ban to Cuba is still in place for US citizens, which a Republican Congress seems adamant to rescind.

Embassies in the two countries have been closed since President Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Although, the US and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called "interests sections" in each other's capitals, since 1977, they do not have the same status as full embassies, and interestingly are under the legal protection of Switzerland.

Jeffrey De Laurentis, the chief of mission at the US interests section, is expected to become the US ambassador to Cuba.

Republican Senators have already threatened to oppose his appointment, citing Cuba's poor human rights record. However, it is expected that De Laurentis could head up the embassy in his current role as the de facto ambassador without being subjected to senate approval.

President Obama has argued that re-establishing diplomatic relations, will allow the US to address Cuba's human rights issues.

Obama stated, "we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict [our] values,"

Obama is required to give Congress a 15 day warning before re-establishing its embassy in Havana. However, because there are no budgetary implications, the State Department argue that there is virtually nothing US legislators can do to prevent the upgrade of the existing interests section into an embassy.

The thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US can be regarded as a major foreign policy victory for Obama, and is likely to be well received by other countries within Latin America; a region of vital strategic and economic importance to the US.

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