December 15, 2017
Monday, July 20, 2015

Cuban flag raised over Washington embassy as ties restored

The Cuban flag was is seen raised over their new embassy in Washington.
The Cuban flag was is seen raised over their new embassy in Washington.
The Cuban flag was is seen raised over their new embassy in Washington.

The Cuban flag was raised over Havana’s embassy in Washington today for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations, opening a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the reinauguration of the embassy, a milestone in the diplomatic thaw that began with an announcement by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on Dec. 17.

Serious differences remain between the United States and Communist-ruled Cuba, and efforts toward full normalization of ties are expected to proceed slowly. But the ceremonies carried enormous symbolism after more than two years of negotiations between governments that had long shunned each other.

"The historic events we are living today will only make sense with the removal of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes so much deprivation and damage to our people, the return of occupied territory in Guantanamo, and respect for the sovereignty of Cuba," Rodriguez said.

The foreign minister spoke at a reception inside the stately building, which was visited by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro just months after he seized power in Cuba in 1959.

He said the Cuban flag that hung outside the Washington embassy when it closed in 1961 will now be displayed inside.

Earlier, a three-man honor guard marched onto the front lawn where the Cuban flag was mounted on a newly installed pole while a band played the Cuban national anthem.

As the flag was slowly raised, there were competing chants from the crowd outside the gates. "Cuba si, embargo no!" Shouted one group. "Cuba si, Fidel no," yelled a much smaller group.

In Havana, the US Embassy was also reopened for business with no outward sign of change. Embassy staff flashed new badges and business cards, and the website, Twitter feed and Facebook page of the mission changed. The Stars and Stripes, however, will not be hoisted there until a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry expected on Aug. 14.

More than 500 people, including Obama administration officials, US lawmakers and a large visiting Cuban delegation, attended the ceremony at the nearly century-old mansion that was being converted back into the Cuban Embassy.

The US delegation was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson.

Earlier and without fanfare, maintenance workers hung the Cuban flag in the lobby of the US State Department, where it joined the banners of other countries with which the United States has diplomatic relations.

In a further sign of a desire to move past decades of enmity, Kerry and Rodriguez, the first Cuban foreign minister on an official visit to Washington since the Cuban Revolution, were due to meet at the State Department and then hold a news conference later on Monday.

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Tags:  Cuba  US  Obama  Castro  flags  embassies  

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