Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Viva Cuba, Viva Fidel, Viva Obama?

My only comment on yesterday's news item below is that onlookers would have been wiser to chant "Viva Obama" or "Viva la Convivencia" given the political bravery and risk the president has taken in "engaging" the Cuban government while aiming to "empower" the Cuban people.

Still, quite an historic day...


As onlookers chanted "Viva Cuba, Viva Fidel," the Cuban flag was hoisted outside of the country's newly established embassy in Washington on Monday.

The gesture marked a symbolic end to more than five decades of hostility and mistrust between the two countries.

The U.S. also opened its embassy in Cuba on Monday, but there was no ceremony. That will take place when Secretary of State John Kerry visits Havana on August 14.

Monday afternoon, Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez held talks during the first visit by a Cuban foreign minister to the State Department in more than 50 years.

Kerry, Rodriguez discuss goals, differences
Kerry has called the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba a "new beginning," but he said many differences remain.

He said the full normalization process will be "long and complex."

"Along the way, we are sure to encounter a bump here or there and moments even of frustration," said Kerry. "Patience will be required," he added.

Rodriguez spelled out some of the differences that he discussed with Kerry, including Cuba's desire for an end to the U.S. trade embargo as well as the return of the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.

The diplomatic shift comes 54 years after a break that happened during U.S. President John F. Kennedy's administration.

Mixed crowd at flag-raising
Well-wishers and protesters were among those on hand for Monday's flag-raising at the stately mansion that serves as the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Some demonstrators chanted and waved colorful banners calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo.

Orlando Luis Pardo, a Cuban from Havana, was among those attending. He praised normalization efforts but criticized Cuban leader Raul Castro's government for its restrictions.

"We deserve freedom of organization, peaceful organization. We deserve freedom of demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations," he said.

Another spectator, Center for a Free Cuba executive director Frank Calzon, had criticism for President Barack Obama's administration.

He said the U.S. was hasty in removing Cuba from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list and said the U.S. should have sought more concessions from Cuba on human rights issues before moving to re-establish ties.

While the U.S. did not hold a ceremony at its embassy in Havana to mark the resumption of relations, it did hoist the Cuban flag to hang alongside those from other nations at the State Department.

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