By Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Although some progress has been made since Cuba and the United States began rapprochement two years ago, major obstacles still exist, particularly the U.S.-led trade embargo against Cuba.
On Dec. 17, 2014, Cuban President Raul Castro and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama jointly announced that the two countries started a process to restore diplomatic ties, after over half a century of enmity.
After that, three members of the Cuban Five, intelligence officers who were convicted by a U.S. court on charges of espionage and given long prison terms, were swiftly released from prison in the United States, where they had been incarcerated since 1998. Their two other comrades were released earlier.
A series of steps were then taken by the United States toward Cuba, such as removing the island from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
In July 2015, diplomatic ties were restored and respective embassies were re-opened.
Progress continued when Obama visited Havana in March. He was the first sitting U.S. president to do so in 88 years. Alongside this, numerous high-level visits, technical meetings and common interest agreements between the two countries were held or signed.
However, the economic embargo imposed by Washington on Havana for over 50 years remains in place, with the Republican-held Congress showing no willingness to lift it.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly this year, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said: "Most of the executive orders and laws which established the blockade remain relevant and are being rigorously applied by U.S. government agencies."
Havana has made it very clear that relations with the United States will not be fully normalized as long as the embargo stays and the Guantanamo Naval Base is not returned to Cuban control.
The United States also continues to promote political interference, making human rights accusations against the Cuban government, among others. Cuba has expressed strong opposition.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump threatened last month that he might "terminate" the thaw in the U.S.-Cuba relations initiated by Obama.
"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal," he said.
During his presidential campaign, Trump derided Obama's new Cuba policy as "weak," saying he would pursue a "better deal" that benefits Washington.
Concerning Trump's stance, Josefina Vidal, head of U.S. affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry, said earlier this month she hoped that the new U.S. government would take into account the achievements that has been made since the historic announcement of Dec. 17, 2014.