US loosens embargo on Cuba, making trade and travel easier

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U.S. To Loosen Cuban Embargo

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is putting a large dent in the U.S. embargo against Cuba as of Friday, significantly loosening restrictions on American trade and investment.

The new rules also open up the communist island to greater American travel and allow U.S. citizens to start bringing home small amounts of Cuban cigars after more than a half-century ban.

Thursday's announcement of new Treasury and Commerce Department regulations are the next step in President Barack Obama's plan to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. They come three days after U.S. officials confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners Cuba had promised to free.

Only Congress can end the five-decade embargo. But the measures give permission for Americans to use credit cards in Cuba and U.S. companies to export telephone, computer and Internet technologies. Investments in some small business are permitted. General tourist travel is still prohibited, but Americans authorized to visit Cuba need no longer apply for special licenses.

Obama announced last month that he would soften the embargo and begin restoring diplomatic ties with Havana, saying "these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked." The deal was the product of 18 months of secret talks that culminated in the exchange of imprisoned spies and release of Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years.

45 PHOTOS
Historic change in Cuba - +Joanne Chesimard US fugitive with asylum in Cuba
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US loosens embargo on Cuba, making trade and travel easier
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2014 file photo, Sen. Robert Menendez, center, looks on as President Barack Obama, center right, greets New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center left, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Wrightstown, N.J. Christie says he disagrees with President Obama's decision to work to normalize relations with Cuba and wants the president to demand the return of a convicted cop killer before diplomatic relations proceed. Christie outlined his requests in a letter sent to the White House last week and released by his office Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. Joanne Chesimard was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, but escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she has been granted asylum. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, file)
This photo provided by the FBI shows the different appearances of convicted fugitive Joanne Chesimard, in different years. Chesimard had been convicted of the murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster and the wounding of trooper James Harper during a gun battle on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. In 1979 she escaped from the Clinton Correctional Institution for Women where she was serving a sentence of 26-to-33 years. (AP Photo/FBI)
FILE - A Monday, May 2, 2005 file photo shows New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, who was killed during a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Sundiata Acoli then known as Clark Edward Squire and Joanne Chesimard were convicted of the murder of Trooper Foerster, but Chesimard escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, living there under the name Assata Shakur. In a ruling published Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, a New Jersey appeals court has ordered the state parole board to release Sundiata Acoli, who was convicted in the shooting death more than four decades ago. He has been in jail since then and was denied parole most recently in 2011. (AP Photo/Tim Larsen, File)
This is an undated picture provided by the New Jersey State Police showing Assata Shakur - the former Joanne Chesimard - who was put on a U.S. government terrorist watch list on May 2, 2005. On the same day, New Jersey officials announced a $1 million reward for her capture. A member of the Black Liberation Army, Shakur, 57, was convicted in 1973 of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster as he lay on the ground. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (AP Photo/New Jersey State Police)
A poster with photographs of Joanne Chesimard, a fugitive for more than 30 years, is on display during a news conference giving updates on the search of Chesimard, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The reward for the capture and return of convicted murderer Chesimard, one of New Jersey’s most notorious fugitives, was doubled to $2 million Thursday on the 40th anniversary of the violent confrontation that led to the slaying of a New Jersey state trooper. The FBI also announced it has made Chesimard, now living in Cuba as Assata Shakur, the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Black Liberation Army member Joanne Chesimard leaves Middlesex County courthouse after Superior Court Judge Theodore Appleby added a 26 to 33 year sentence to life term she is serving for the murder of a state trooper in New Brunswick, N.J., April 25, 1977. Chesimard, of Cuba, escaped from prison in 1979 and claims her innocence. (AP Photo)
Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, stands next to posters during a news conference giving updates on the search of Joanne Chesimard, a fugitive for more than 30 years, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The reward for the capture and return of convicted murderer Chesimard, one of New Jersey’s most notorious fugitives, was doubled to $2 million Thursday on the 40th anniversary of the violent confrontation that led to the slaying of a New Jersey state trooper. The FBI also announced it has made Chesimard, now living in Cuba as Assata Shakur, the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A poster with photographs of Joanne Chesimard, a fugitive for more than 30 years, is on display during a news conference giving updates on the search of Chesimard, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The reward for the capture and return of convicted murderer Chesimard, one of New Jersey’s most notorious fugitives, was doubled to $2 million Thursday on the 40th anniversary of the violent confrontation that led to the slaying of a New Jersey state trooper. The FBI also announced it has made Chesimard, now living in Cuba as Assata Shakur, the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
State Police Col. Rick Fuentes speaks at a press conference announcing the federal bounty for the capture of convicted killer Joanne Chesimard has been increased from $150,000 to $1 million in West Trenton, N.J. Monday, May 2, 2005. Chesimard was convicted of the murder of Trooper Werner Foerster, pictured in background, but escaped to Cuba and was granted political asylum after three gunmen helped her escape from what was then the Clinton Correctional Institution for Women in Hunterdon County in 1979.(AP Photo/Tim Larsen)
Attorney General Peter Harvey announces that the federal bounty for the capture of convicted killer Joanne Chesimard has been increased from $50,000 to $1 million in West Trenton, N.J. on Monday, May 2, 2005. Chesimard was convicted of the murder of Trooper Werner Foerster, but escaped to Cuba and was granted political asylum after three gunmen helped her escape from what was then the Clinton Correctional Institution for Women in Hunterdon County in 1979. (AP Photo/Tim Larsen)
New Jersey State Police Superindendent Carl Williams, left, and Gov. Christie Whitman, right, listen as U.S. Rep. Bob Franks, R-N.J., addresses a rally at the Union Police Headquarters in Union, N.J., Saturday, Aug. 1, 1998. The rally called for the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard, of Cuba. Chesimard, who was convicted of killing a state trooper in 1973, has been living in Cuba since escaping from prison in 1979. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross on the tarmac with his wife, Judy Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert, Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross boards a government plane during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross greets Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Az., Sen.and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Judy Gross greets her husband, Alan Gross, December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
A woman with a poster of the Cuban Five, that reads in Spanish "Freedom Now," celebrates their release, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations. The announcement was accompanied by a quiet exchange of imprisoned spies and the celebratory release of American Alan Gross, a government contract worker who had been held in Cuba for 5 years and the U.S. freed the three remaining members of the Cuban Five who were jailed in Florida. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Tourists ride in a classic American car on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. The U.S. is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A classic American car passes by a stall selling onions in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. The U.S. is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: A Cuban man reads the Granma, a Cuban communist party paper, as he has his shoes shined, shortly after a live broadcast a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Cuban school kids watch a live broadcast of the speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., with a poster of the 'The Cuban Five' hanging on the wall on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Cubans applaud and cheer after a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., under a poster of the 'The Cuban Five' on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross greets Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen.and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross chats with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. as the final paperwork gets signed by a Cuban official on his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross on the tarmac with his wife, Judy Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert, Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – & not 1 second sooner
Alan Gross should've never been jailed. Obama’s unilateral move is propaganda coup 4 #Castro regime, may violate law http://t.co/tB9z0w6Pd0
Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – & not 1 second sooner
There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship. http://t.co/cjuXvwFET8 #Cuba
If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism: http://t.co/cjuXvwFET8 #Cuba
Happy for Alan Gross & family but dismayed Obama admin agreed to release Cuban spies. Legitimizes Castro regime's coercive tactics.
The President has done it again, bypassing Congress and making changes on his own, this time to Cuba policy. http://t.co/1nJHiM7LRm
“I am pleased #AlanGross will be reunited with this family after suffering years of unjust imprisonment” http://t.co/sQ9k5alj7s #Cuba
I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.
I welcome the return of Alan Gross to the United States and celebrate his release from imprisonment
Since 1961, nine different Republican and Democrat presidents have opposed normalizing relations with Cuba
President Obama’s announcement is further evidence that his foreign policy objective is appeasement
The president’s action rewards the Castro regime at the expense of the Cuban people, who are denied fair elections and free speech
My statement on #Cuba & #AlanGross: http://t.co/96XNrJe2se
Diaz-Balart on Release of Alan Gross and Concessions by President Obama http://t.co/6mUiJr3g3B
Alan Gross. Back on U.S. soil. http://t.co/Ut5jvdQGg2
Alan and Judy Gross. Together again. Just before leaving Cuba this morning. #alangross http://t.co/cdIlIkYfF3
Great moment for @JebBush to condemn Castro brothers and stand for liberty and democracy abroad.
The Admin's decision to release three Cuban spies and seek normalized relations with Cuba is a dangerous mistake http://t.co/3jDourKGv1
The U.S. embargo against Cuba has a decades-long history. President Obama can gut the embargo, but he'll need Congressional approval to get rid of it.
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The few U.S. companies facilitating travel to Cuba say inquiries have exploded since December. American visits could triple this year, from about 90,000 annually. "We're hiring more people, we've secured more hotel rooms and assets in Cuba to provide additional travel," said Tom Popper, president of New York-based insightCuba.

With the new regulations public, the focus shifts to American businesses and the Cuban government. Some changes could take months as U.S. firms analyze the risks and benefits of moving into a complicated new market. And the Cuban government has said nothing publicly about how it will regulate new trade with the United States. Foreign companies currently deal almost entirely with state-owned firms that are notoriously slow, inefficient and short on cash.

Cuba will likely be more open to a surge in new travelers than to other potential effects of the loosened rules.

But Cuban hotels generally fall short of international standards and those with better food and service are almost always fully booked during the winter high season.

"This is good news, but we're lacking infrastructure in hotels and in administration," said Maikel Gonzalez, a 34-year-old hotel receptionist. "American tourists are really demanding. How do I explain to one that the taxi didn't come because it doesn't have tires or that there's no water in the rooms?"

Individual Cubans can legally rent out their homes or apartments- a potential source of thousands of rooms for travelers and a flood of funding for private citizens that would be largely outside state control.

Also casting a shadow on potential deals is the possibility of litigation by Cuban-Americans and U.S. firms whose property was confiscated in Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution and may try to sue companies entering into business with the Cuban government. In Washington, Congress may also seek to erect barriers to new investment.

The sudden rapprochement between Cold War foes has divided U.S. lawmakers. Republican Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, both Cuban-Americans, have been particularly opposed.

But some pro-business types have welcomed the opportunity to open up a new export market in a country 90 miles from Florida. Thomas Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, said Wednesday it was better for the U.S. to sell computers, smartphones and cars to Cuba than to cede such business to countries like Russia and China. Still, the embargo as a whole appears unlikely to fall anytime soon.

Starting Friday, U.S. companies will be able to export mobile phones, televisions, memory devices, recording devices, computers and software to a country with notoriously poor Internet and telecommunications infrastructure. Internet-based communications will fall under a general license. The new rules "immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

With hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family each year, Cuba is already awash in American products brought in people's luggage, including iPhones and flat-screen TVs. The main barriers to Internet access are high prices and restrictions imposed by a government desperate for hard currency and worried about allowing citizens unrestricted communications among themselves and with the outside world.

Americans permitted to travel to Cuba for family visits, official U.S. government business, journalism, research, education, religious activity and other reasons now fall under a U.S. general license and don't need to apply for a separate license. A limit on remittance payments to family members in Cuba will be raised to $8,000 per year, from $2,000. Americans visiting Cuba will be allowed to bring home $100 in alcohol and tobacco products, and $400 in total goods.

The U.S. is now "one step closer to replacing out of date policies," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Thursday.

Other changes include:

-The elimination of limits on how much money Americans spend in Cuba each day or what they spend it on.

-Permissible use of U.S. credit and debit cards.

-Travel agents and airlines can fly to Cuba without a special license.

-Insurance companies can provide coverage for health, life and travel insurance policies for individuals residing in or visiting Cuba.

-Financial institutions may open accounts at Cuban banks to facilitate authorized transactions.

-Investments can be made in some small businesses and agricultural operations.

-Companies may ship building materials and equipment to private Cuban companies to renovate private buildings.

The U.S. and Cuba are scheduled to hold migration talks in Havana next week, the next step in their normalization process. Leading the American delegation is Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America. Her visit marks the highest-level trip to Cuba by a U.S. official since 1980.

Further down the road, Washington envisions reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana and carrying out high-level exchanges and visits between the governments. Secretary of State John Kerry could travel to the island later this year.

Related Gallery: Fidel Castro
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Fidel Castro public appearance
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US loosens embargo on Cuba, making trade and travel easier
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, makes a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
In this frame grab of video released by Cubavision, Cuba's former President Fidel Castro attends the inauguration of the cultural center, Studio Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art, in Havana, Cuba, late Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Castro made his first public appearance in nine months after last appearing in public in April 2013, when he attended the inauguration of Havana school. (AP Photo/Cubavision via APTN)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro (C) and his wife Dalia Soto (L) during the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
A screenshot of Cuba's website Cubadebate shows a photo of Fidel Castro with the head of the main Cuban student union Randy Perdomo Garcia in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday Feb. 3, 2015. Cuba has published the first photos of Fidel Castro in five months, showing the 88-year-old former leader engaged in conversation with Perdomo Garcia. A first-person account by the student leader says the meeting took place on Jan. 23. The photos published around midnight on Monday are the first images of the revolutionary leader since a set of photos came out in August showing him talking with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.(AP Photo)
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, visiting the U.S., takes a good sized bite of hot dog during a trip to New York's Bronx Zoo April 24, 1959. Hot dogs are not unknown to Cuba, but are not nearly as common as they are in the U.S. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
Cuban leader Fidel Castro feeds elephants at the Bronx Zoo during a visit to New York City, April 1959. (Photo by Meyer Liebowitz/New York Times/Getty Images)
Fidel Castro, Cuban Premier, meets former baseball star Jackie Robinson at a luncheon of the Overseas Press Club at Hotel Astor in New York, April 23, 1959. The Cuban leader, on a five day visit to New York, has said that he's a baseball fan. Robinson, former Brooklyn Dodger star, is now a New York executive. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro takes a draw at his long cigar, a special brand he brought along, as he talks with newsmen outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, April 16, 1959. The 32-year-old Cuban Prime Minister, in Washington on an unofficial visit, is wearing his major's uniform. (AP Photo/William J. Smith)
Vice President Richard Nixon and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro leave Nixon's office in Washington, D.C., April 19, 1959, after a two hour and 20 minute chat behind closed doors. The meeting had been listed on Castro's program as a 15 minute visit. In answer to a question, Castro said the meeting had been "very friendly." (AP Photo)
News and film photographers line sidewalk as bearded Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, right, strides to un headquarters in New York April 22, 1959. He was on his way to visit un Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. Men with Castro at right are unidentified. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
Fidel Castro visits New York Fidel Castro waves to crowd outside Statler Hotel. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader shown during a visit to Washington D.C., USA in April 1959. (AP Photo)
Cuban Premier Fidel Castro is pictured at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 16, 1959. (AP Photo)
Cuban Premier Fidel Castro places a wreath at the tombs of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, April 20, 1959, as he continues his Washington visit. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
Fidel Castro visits New York. Fidel Castro outside Statler Hotel. (Photo By: Dan Farrell/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Cuba's Premier Fidel Castro and his Foreign Minister, Dr. Raul Roa, tune in the President's speech at United Nations. Later, Castro told reporters he has invited Khrushchev to visit Cuba. (Photo By: Frank Hurley/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: During a visit to the United States, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel CASTRO (left) meets with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel NASSER New York before CASTRO's departure for Havana (Cuba). (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
FILE- This Spet. 20, 1960 file photo shows Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, and Cuban President Fidel Castro, center, outside the Hotel Theresa in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Castro was staying at the hotel during his first visit to the United Nations after coming to power. The famed Hotel Theresa closed in 1967. The building where it was located, at 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, was later designated a city landmark and is now an office building. The hotel was called the "Waldorf of Harlem," hosting celebrities from Louis Armstrong to Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/FILE)
**FILE** Cuba's Fidel Castro is escorted by Massachusetts State Police as he walks to an airplane at Logan Airport in Boston, Mass., for a flight to Montreal, Canada, in this April 26, 1959 file photo. The Cuban leader, was in Boston to speak at the Harvard Law School forum last night, was under heavy police guard during his visit as authorities fearedf a possible assassination. The U.S. government believes Castro's health is deteriorating and that the Cuban dictator is unlikely to live through 2007. (AP Photo/File)
Captain Heinrich Lorenz, left, of cruise ship MS Berlin, proposes a toast to the success of Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba, April 15, 1954, Havana, Cuba. Castro visited the North German Lloyd ship after it landed in Havana from New York. (AP Photo)
Construction worker Bernhard Berntsen of Brooklyn greets Cuban Premier Fidel Castro as the latter emerged from a visit at the New York coffee and sugar exchange April 24, 1959. Berntsen, of 1114 84th street, Brooklyn, told Castro he’d done “a good job.” Berntsen said he encouraged Castro with an Old Norwegian expression, “when you’re heading the right way, keep on the right road.” (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro gives speech at New York airport
UNITED STATES - APRIL 01: The new strongman in Cuba, Fidel CASTRO, speaking to American journalists during a press conference in New York. His visit to the United States came soon after his overthrow of BATISTA and his taking power in Cuba (January 1959). He was received by Richard NIXON in Washington on April 15. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Cuba’s Prime Minister Fidel Castro points up a remark, as he is surrounded by newsmen at a downtown hotel oApril 16, 1959, following a luncheon meeting with Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter. Members of the Cuban revolutionary movement, wearing fatigue hats, are behind the bearded Prime Minister. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro visits New York. Castro & Dr. Grayson Kirk, pres. of Columbia University. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A press conference in Fidel Castro?s Havana Office, on June 23, 1961 gives Cuba?s Fidel Castro a chance to make the most of his photogenic face and gestures and he does make the most of it was he point to a finger close to his face, comes up to scratch as he thinks of an answer, and smiles broadly, shaking his cigar-holding hand as he comes up with it. Associated press staff photographer Robert Schitz, who went to Havana for the tractors-for-captives negotiations, also made the most of the conference. (AP Photo/Robert Schultz )
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro meets with U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, right, at United Nations headquarters in New York, April 22, 1959. At center is Cuba's ambassador to the U.N. Manuel Bisbe. Castro is in New York during his tour of the U.S. (AP Photo/John Rooney)
** FILE ** In this April 1961 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro jumps from a tank as he arrives at Giron, Cuba, near the Bay Of Pigs. On April 17-19, 1961, the beach was the stage for one of the most memorable chapters in the struggle between Washington and Havana: the invasion of Cuba by a CIA-trained band of armed exiles. Cuba will celebrate on Jan. 1, 2009 the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution. (AP Photo/Bohemia Magazine, File)
Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014. Putin began a Latin American tour aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region with a stop Friday in Cuba, a key Soviet ally during the Cold War that has backed Moscow in its dispute with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)
Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014. Putin began a Latin American tour aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region with a stop Friday in Cuba, a key Soviet ally during the Cold War that has backed Moscow in its dispute with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro attending the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro arrives for the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks at the camera during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks closely at an art piece during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Cubans cheer as Fidel Castro leaves after making a rare public appearance attending the inauguration of an art gallery, on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks closely at an art piece during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, makes a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
In this photo released by Cubadebate, Cuba's former President Fidel Castro, bottom, back to camera, attends the inauguration of the cultural center, Studio Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art, in Havana, Cuba, late Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Cuban news media say Castro appeared in public for the first time since April. The official website Cubadebate carried this photo of the event, though it does not show his face. (AP Photo/Cubadebate, Alex Castro)
P 361115 011 16Nov99 Havana, Cuba Fidel Castro Addresses Youth Attendees Of The Ibero-American Summit In Havana (Photo By Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Bayamo, CUBA: (FILES) Cuban President Fidel Castro checks the weather by looking at the sky, as he delivers a speech on July 26th, 2006, at the Plaza de la Patria square in Bayamo, in the province of Granma, during a ceremony marking the 53rd anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks. Next 26 July, 2007 marks the first anniversary of Fidel Castro falling ill, for what he later underwent intestinal surgery and had to hand over power to his brother Raul. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE TO GO WITH AFP STORY (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Fidel Castro during a news conference in Havana, Aug. 5, 1978. (AP Photo)
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