A jubilant flag-raising at the reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana is giving way to serious talk about the road ahead in improving relations between the United States and Cuba.
Mr Kerry’s visit led to criticism from a number of Republicans, including presidential candidate Jeb Bush who called is a “birthday present for Fidel Castro” and that the administration were “acquiescence to his ruthless legacy”.
“We are all aware that, notwithstanding President Obama’s new policy, the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place and can only be lifted by Congressional action – a step we strongly favor”, Kerry said.
“When I saw that American flag going up today on a attractive day in Cuba“, said Vesa.
“US policy has changed, but Cuba has not”.
“There will be hiccups along the way but it’s a start”, he told reporters travelling with him on the whirlwind one-day trip.
Morris received a standing ovation at the seaside diplomatic mission as they handed a folded flag to three active Marines, who raised it to a brass band rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner“.
The seven-story seafront building in Havana and Cuba’s mansion in Washington were closed from 1961 until 1977, when they reopened as interests sections. But dissidents were not invited to the flag-raising in deference to the Cuban government.
Kerry met Cuban dissidents opposed to the island’s one-party political system at the US embassy residence in Havana later yesterday.
The events underscored the potential as well as the limits of rekindled U.S.-Cuba relations.
“The deal with Cuba threatens America’s moral standing in our hemisphere and around the world, it brings legitimacy to a state sponsor of terror, and further empowers an ally of China and Russian Federation that sits just 90 miles from our shore”.
At the ceremony, Kerry called for democracy in Cuba, which is still run by dictator Fidel Castro and his family.
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has congratulated sister Caribbean nation Cuba and the United States on their ongoing moves to normalise relations.
During the historical event, Kerry made a statement calling for an end to “mutual isolation”, stating that the two countries have “stopped being prisoners of history”.
“Our government is willing to normalize relations with the United States on the basis of respect and equality and without any interference in our internal affairs”, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a joint news conference.
“There is no way Congress will lift the embargo if we are not making progress on issues of conscience”, he said.
Many Cubans disagree with that assessment, including Afro-Cubans who said discrimination is still rampant despite the revolution’s egalitarian ideals, and human rights groups who said regular, short-term arrests of government opponents aim to intimidate dissent and include beatings.