Cuba and America have been at odds for more than half a century, so just how did President Obama break the deadlock?
According to a report by Reuters, the publicised 18 months of secret talks were only the icing on the cake of a much longer and hard fought process to bring the two nations back together again, with President Obama very much at the centre of the cautious approach needed to bring about the historic changes.
It appears that talks began years ago and nearly came to a halt in 2013 during a secret session in Canada while the entire process had the blessing of the Pope and led to both the Cuban and US foreign ministries being left in the cold to ensure the success of the plans.
Why it is so important for President Obama to restore relations in Cuba is complicated to say the least but what is clear is that if the US is to have any influence in Latin America, they need to have everyone onside and the Cuba question was making this exceptionally difficult.
The announcement of the public talks between the two countries makes the whole process look very simple but in reality the deep levels of mis-trust between the two nations has made this a more difficult process than most of us could ever comprehend.
According to Reuters, Obama was not the first Democratic president to reach out to Cuba, but his attempt took advantage of – and carefully judged – a generational shift among Cuban-Americans that greatly reduced the political risks.
It was back in May 2008 that President Obama made a speech to the conservative Cuban-American National Foundation in Miami. Here he set out a new policy allowing greater travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban-Americans and this was the sign that things were about to change dramatically in the future.
“Obama understood that the policy changes he was proposing in 2008 were popular in the Cuban-American community so he was not taking a real electoral risk,” said Dan Restrepo to Reuters, then Obama’s top Latin America adviser.
The very high levels of votes for Obama from the Cuban-American community then helped to give Obama the impetus to push further forward than others had been able to in the past and once his final election was over in 2012, Cuba was top of the agenda for the president, keen to mould his presidential legacy.
President Obama may have been confident of the path his was going to take but secrecy lay all around and Reuters reveals that Secretary of State John Kerry was only informed of the talks after it appeared they might be fruitful, officials said. While according to Reuters, Cuban President Raul Castro operated secretly too in the entire process.
It may still be early days for the relationship between Cuba and the US but it is very clear that this is not something that has happened overnight and it looks like President Obama may have formed his presidential legacy.