"We intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas," the president said.

According to the news site, "The U.S. and Cuba will immediately begin discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations, including plans to establish an embassy in Havana." The president acknowledged that the U.S. has a "complicated history" with the communist nation but added, "Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born."

Republicans were quick to criticize the president's actions. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) cautioned that the exchange of " … Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent."


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that Barack Obama "is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime."

CBS News notes that while Wednesday's announcement is historic, the two nations have worked together in the past, most recently during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where Cuba was one of the first countries to send doctors to help fight the spread of the deadly virus.


"Todos somos americanos," Obama said during his speech. "Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world."

Watch the video at CBS News and read the complete transcript at Whitehouse.gov.