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President Obama says it is finally time to start normalizing relations with Cuba.  Speaking from the White House, the President called the U.S. approach to Cuba outdated.  The U.S. imposed a strict embargo on the communist island nation more than 50-years ago.  The White House argues that the long isolation of Cuba has had little effect.  Obama announced that the U.S. will start easing some travel and trade restrictions and re-establishing embassies in Havana and Washington, DC.  

The President insisted that the U.S. will continue pushing Cuba to institute democracy and acknowledge basic human rights.  Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke by phone this week.  Obama's statement followed the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban jail. 

Gross is a Maryland resident and a U.S. government contractor who has been held in Cuba for about five years.  Cuban officials accused Gross of spying.  The 65-year old Gross is thought to be in declining health.  Cuba released Gross on humanitarian grounds.  There was also a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Cuba.

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