Monday 26 September 2016

Cold War thaw continues as Cuba hoists flag in Washington

Matt Spetalnick

Published 21/07/2015 | 02:30

A member of the Bolivian delegation smokes a Cuban cigar outside the new Cuban Embassy building after its inauguration ceremony in Washington
A member of the Bolivian delegation smokes a Cuban cigar outside the new Cuban Embassy building after its inauguration ceremony in Washington

The Cuban flag was raised over Havana's embassy in Washington yesterday for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations.

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Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the re-inauguration 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 December 17.

Serious differences remain between the United States and Communist-ruled Cuba, and efforts toward full normalisation 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," Mr 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 would now be displayed inside.

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 August 14.

However, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush underscored his opposition to the diplomacy on Twitter, posting: "Obama's rush to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is wrong. This embassy will only serve to further legitimise repressive regime."

Irish Independent

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