WATCH: Cruz Rips Obama on Cuba; Calls New Embassy a 'Slap in the Face to Israel'

Republican presidential contenders are speaking out against the plan for the U.S. and Cuba to open embassies in each other's capitals.

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A protester holds an American and Cuban flag as she joins with others opposed to U.S. President Obama's announcement of a change to his country’s Cuba policy in Miami, Dec. 20, 2014.
A protester holds an American and Cuban flag as she joins with others opposed to U.S. President Obama's announcement of a change to his country’s Cuba policy in Miami, Dec. 20, 2014.Credit: AFP

WASHINGTON AP - The United States and Cuba will open embassies in their capital cities after more than 50 years of hostilities between the two countries. The latest developments (all times local):

4:20 P.M.

Republican presidential contenders are speaking out against the plan for the U.S. and Cuba to open embassies in each other's capitals.

Marco Rubio says he'll continue to oppose the confirmation of any ambassador to Cuba until its leaders address human rights abuses and meet other conditions. The Florida senator and son of Cuban immigrants accuses the Obama administration of making "unilateral concessions" to an "odious regime."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says the plan is "legitimizing the brutal Castro regime."

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz calls it a "slap in the face of a close ally" that the U.S. would place an embassy in Havana before putting one in Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy for Israel is in Tel Aviv because of sensitivities in the Middle East about moving it to Jerusalem. Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant father.

It's unacceptable and a slap in the face of a close ally that the United States will have an embassy in Havana before one in Jerusalem.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says Obama is "foolishly" rewarding Cuban leaders.

But Rand Paul has been silent on the embassy plan. The Kentucky senator has supported the normalization of relations with Cuba.

2 P.M.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will reopen embassies, calling the restoration of diplomatic ties "an important step on the path toward the normalization of relations."

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the secretary-general "hopes that this historic step will benefit the peoples of both countries."

12:32 P.M.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a Cuban-American and 2016 presidential contender, excoriated 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 the "misery of our friends, the people of Cuba."

11:54 A.M.

One of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama's outreach to Cuba is a fellow Democrat - Sen. Bob Menendez.

The New Jersey senator, in a statement Wednesday, ripped the administration for its plans to open the embassy in Havana. Menendez said the Cuban government is the only one in the Western Hemisphere, "which the Obama administration has chosen to establish relations with, that is not elected by its citizens."

Menendez said the message from the administration "is democracy and human rights take a back seat to a legacy initiative."

Cuban President Raul Castro says he's "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.

11:22 A.M.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is cautiously welcoming word from the Obama administration of plans to open an embassy in Cuba as the White House seeks to normalize ties to the Cold War foe.

"I still distrust Castro, but we have to get that regime to open up, stop human rights abuses, and give the Cuban people their basic freedoms. I think reopening the embassies is a necessary step in the long process toward achieving that goal," Nelson said in a statement.

11:35 a.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he'll travel later this summer to Havana to raise the stars-and-stripes over the new U.S. Embassy to Cuba.

Kerry didn't give a precise date for opening the embassy.

But he called Wednesday's announcement of normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba "long overdue."

He credited Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro with making a necessary change.

Speaking in Vienna, where he was attending nuclear talks with Iran, Kerry said the former Cold War foes still have sharp differences over democracy, human rights and other matters.

An embassy, he said, will allow the U.S. to engage the Cuban government and people, and help Americans traveling to the island.

Kerry, recovering from a broken leg, spoke from a city square with crutches at his side.

11:21 A.M.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the Obama administration is handing Fidel and Raul Castro "a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing" for the Cuban people who have been oppressed by a brutal communist dictatorship.

In a statement, the Republican leader maintained that relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom - "and not one second sooner."

The statement underscores the heavy lift for the administration in persuading Congress to end the embargo or even approve any taxpayer dollars on a U.S. embassy in Havana.

11:10 A.M.

Cuban television is broadcasting President Obama's statement on resuming diplomatic ties.

The transmission is happening live on state television with a translation into Spanish.

It is highly unusual for Cuban TV to carry a U.S. presidential speech, although Havana broadcasters also did so in December when the two countries announced a historic detente.

11:10 A.M.

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.

10:13 A.M.

The Cuban government says Havana and Washington will restore full diplomatic relations and reopen embassies July 20.

The Foreign Ministry in Havana made the announcement Wednesday morning after receiving a letter from President Barack Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro.

The onetime Cold War foes have not had full diplomatic ties for more than five decades.

9:30 A.M.

The United States' top diplomat in Havana has delivered a letter from the White House to Cuba about restoring embassies in the countries' respective capitals.

U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis arrived at the Cuban Foreign Ministry in Havana on Wednesday morning to hand-deliver the message.

Photographers and video journalists were allowed to document the encounter, but neither he nor Cuban officials spoke publicly.



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