Cuba raises flag at embassy in US
Cuba's blue, red and white-starred flag was hoisted Monday at the country's embassy in Washington in a symbolic move signalling the start of a new post-Cold War era in United States (US)-Cuba relations.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno RodrÌguez presided over the flag-raising ceremony hours after full diplomatic relations with the United States were restored at the stroke of midnight, when an agreement to resume normal ties on July 20 took effect.
Earlier, without ceremony, the Cuban flag was hung in the lobby of the US State Department alongside those of other countries with which the US has diplomatic ties. US and Cuban diplomats in Washington and Havana had also noted the upgrade in social media posts.
Several hundred people gathered on the street outside the embassy, cheering as the Cuban national anthem was played and three Cuban soldiers in dress uniforms stood at the base of the flagpole and raised the flag.
But there were also signs of the sore points that continue in the US-Cuba relationship. In remarks inside the embassy RodrÌguez cited Cuban independence leader JosÈ MartÌ, who he noted had paid tribute to America's values but also warned of its "excess craving for domination". Cuba was able to survive the last 50 years thanks to the "wise leadership of Fidel Castro", Rodriguez said.
He also slammed the US for continuing to hold on to Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base there, where the US military prison has continued to hold terror suspects. RodrÌguez said Guantanamo was a "nefarious consequence" of US attempts to dominate the hemisphere.
He said the return of Guantanamo, the lifting of the trade embargo and US respect for Cuban sovereignty would be critical to moving on from past hostility.
The US and Cuba severed diplomatic relations in 1961 and since the 1970s had been represented in each other's capitals by limited service interests sections. Their conversion to embassies tolled a knell for policy approaches spawned and hardened over the five decades since President John F. Kennedy first tangled with youthful revolutionary Fidel Castro over Soviet expansion in the Americas.
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana on August 14, to preside over a flag-raising ceremony at the US Embassy there.
Some 500 guests, including a 30-member delegation of diplomatic, cultural and other leaders from the Caribbean nation, attended the Cuban ceremony at the stately 16th Street mansion in Washington that has been operating as an interests section under the auspices of the Swiss embassy.
The US was represented at the event by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, who led US negotiators in six months of talks leading to the July 1 announcement, and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief of the US Interests Section in Havana who will now become chargÈ d'affaires.