WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington is another demonstration that the U.S. doesn't have to be imprisoned by the past.

Obama is announcing the formal restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. He's calling it an "historic step."

Obama says Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana over the summer to raise the American flag over the embassy.

Obama says the reopening of a full embassy in Havana means American diplomats will be able to engage directly with Cuban government officials, civil society leaders and ordinary Cubans. He's referring to the freedom of movement for U.S. diplomats that had been a sticking point in negotiations to reopen the embassies.

Obama is also calling on Congress to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He says lawmakers should listen to the Cuban people and the American people who oppose maintaining economic sanctions against the island nation.


Castro 'pleased' about resumption of diplomatic ties

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro says he is "pleased" to confirm his country will resume diplomatic ties with the United States.

Castro writes in a letter to President Barack Obama that Cuba is doing so because it is "encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful relations and cooperation between our people and governments."

However a separate statement from the government says reopening embassies is just the first step in "a long and complex process toward normalization of bilateral ties."

It demands an end to the U.S. embargo, the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, a halt to U.S. radio and TV broadcasts aimed at the other island and other grievances.

Castro's letter and the government statement were read out by a presenter on state television Wednesday morning.


Cruz calls Cuba ties 'unconditional surrender'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a Cuban-American and 2016 presidential contender, is denouncing President Barack Obama over the new diplomatic ties with Cuba, calling it "unconditional surrender" to the Castros.

Cruz says the Cuban regime is "one of the most violently anti-American regimes on the planet." And the Texas senator is threatening to block any Obama nominee for ambassador.

Cruz also says he will work to stop funds for embassy construction unless Obama can show that he has made progress in alleviating what Cruz calls the "misery of our friends, the people of Cuba."