Secretary of State John Kerry called the ceremony a “truly historic moment”, while stressing to the leaders and citizens of the communist nation that the United States would “always be a champion of democratic principles”.
For the first time in 54 years, the American flag was raised over the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, a symbolic nod to the end of diplomatic strain that has lasted more than half a century.
Kerry was the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years and his presence for the flag-raising ceremony at the reinaugurated US embassy is the capstone to the thaw that was announced in December – after 18 months of Vatican-brokered secret talks.
“And slowly, the crowd just parted in front of them as they made their way to the flagpole, lowered Old Glory, folded it and returned to the building”, Kerry said.
“It’s a historic day for the two peoples”, Dinora Garcia, 57, told dpa. “Activists are invited to a reception later, at the U.S. ambassador’s residence”.
“Like many other governments in and outside this hemisphere, we will continue to urge the Cuban government to fulfill its obligations under the UN and Inter-American human rights covenants, obligations shared by the United States and every other country in the Americas”, he said.
But issues remain, with Cuban leader Fidel Castro blasting the US for not lifting its trade embargo.
While reiterating Cuba’s desire to normalise ties with the US on the basis of respect and equality, Rodriguez expressed his conviction that “beyond the differences between our governments, which will obviously not disappear, it is possible to build civilized and productive relations”.
They include the full lifting of the “blockade” – or economic embargo – that the US has maintained on Cuba since 1962 and the return of the “usurped” Cuban territory of the American navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
“Opening the door to an embassy in Cuba will not open the door to democracy for the Cuban people”, Boehner added.
Kerry said a longtime U.S. strategy of trying to isolate Cuba, foment grass-roots agitation and provoke regime change by choking off trade and finance through the embargo had failed.
In remarks Friday to the Foreign Policy Initiative, Rubio said Obama administration concessions to both Iran and Cuba endanger the United States. The Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., raised its flag on July 20. Instead, the State Department demanded little and bowed to mandates that embassy personnel face rigid constraints in their access to the Cuban people.
With ties now restored, there are plenty of hurdles along the way to normal relations between the two neighbours.
In a sign of the changing times, they were protesting not the Castro brothers but Obama, wearing sarcastic masks of the American leader to condemn the decision to reopen the embassy.