Retired Marine Corporal Larry Morris, along with two fellow officers who dutifully lowered the flag 54 years ago, presented the Stars and Stripes on Friday to three Marines now part of the detachment in Havana.
After more than half a century, the American flag was raised over the U.S. Embassy in Cuba in a ceremony on Friday.
“We remain convinced the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas, practice their faith”.
They returned to Havana with Kerry to seal the renewal of diplomatic relations embarked on in December by President Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro.
But it has, and today Secretary of State John Kerry made history in Havana, Cuba, as he reopened the U.S. Embassy there.
Restored diplomatic ties mean US diplomats can travel more freely and increase staff. Cuba has also reduced the number of security guards who keep on eye on Cubans going in and out.
Friday brought the events of the past eight months to full circle, which had begun earlier this year when President Obama announced that the United States had begun taking steps to formally resume diplomatic relations with the previously imprisoned island of Cuba.
Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the men for their composure during a tense moment, in 1961, when they emerged from the building to find a large crowd between them and the flagpole.
Underlining the sticking points still complicating relations between the two countries, Fidel Castro said in an essay published in Cuban state media Thursday – his 89th birthday – that the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the US trade embargo on the island.
“Knowing that we are an embassy now is definitely something very big”, said Julio Llopiz who works at the public affairs office.
Already for weeks, Cubans have been lining up at the embassy, which officially opened in July, for visas to visit the U.S. or to move permanently to live with relatives.
Kerry was also slated to meet with Cuban officials and the head of the Catholic Church in the country. The embargo remains in place and is one of the thorny topics in ongoing talks between the two nations, as is the issue of human rights in communist Cuba.
However, some are skeptical of the attempts to improve ties, particularly Republican politicians.
“Cuba’s future is for Cubans to shape”, he added. Cuban dissidents weren’t invited to the morning ceremony at the embassy, but will attend a later reception and a second flag raising at the chief of mission’s residence.