US, Cuba restore ties, open embassies after 54 years

2015-07-20 08:12
A Cuban flag and an American flag. (Ramon Espinosa, AP)

A Cuban flag and an American flag. (Ramon Espinosa, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Cuba and the United States formally renewed diplomatic ties on Monday, as embassies reopened in their respective capitals, a powerful move toward burying decades of enmity between the Cold War foes.

A foreign policy legacy for President Barack Obama, the historic turnaround between two bitter foes has come about at breakneck pace, in just a matter of months since the two sides agreed to bury the hatchet and work together as equals.

The shift came after Washington acknowledged that its policy of trying to affect change in tightly controlled communist Cuba through isolation and trade restrictions had failed, and that engaging Havana directly was a better way to nudge it towards democracy and prosperity.

For the first time since 1961, the Cuban flag will fly over Havana's newly upgraded embassy in Washington, just a stone's throw from the White House.

The standard with a white star inside a red triangle against white and blue stripes will also take its place among a row of flags from around the world adorning the State Department's imposing marble entrance in the US capital.

In yet another historic gesture, US Secretary of State John Kerry will formally receive his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez for talks on Monday, before holding a joint press conference around 13:45.

Earlier, Rodriguez will preside over a ceremony to mark the upgrading of the Cuban interests section to a full embassy.

The rapprochement was announced on December 17, as Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro agreed to end their countries' estrangement and put them on track towards a full normalisation of ties.

After a series of negotiations in Havana and Washington, the restoration of diplomatic relations has come about just seven months later.

Building trust

But both nations have cautioned that this is only a beginning, warning that overcoming decades of very bad blood is not easy.

There are "issues that we don't see eye-to-eye on," State Department spokesperson John Kirby admitted on Friday.

The United States "wants to move beyond a Cold War-era approach to one of constructive engagement as a way to support and empower the Cuban people," analyst Ted Piccone from the Brookings Institution told AFP.

"Cuba needs the United States as an economic engine for its troubled economy and hopes to attract new foreign investment and human capital to update its socialist model, but without undergoing political reform."

"Building confidence and trust will be critical to the ability to move forward," he added.

One of the biggest areas of contention remains human rights, with Washington pressing for an improvement in freedoms of expression, religion and the press in the Caribbean island nation.

Some Republicans have been sharply critical of what they see as US haste to cozy up with Cuba.

Senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, vowed to end diplomatic ties with an "anti-American communist tyranny."

"This recognition somehow sends a message to dissidents and others around the world that the United States accepts the Cuban form of government today as a legitimate form of government," he told CNN's "State of the Union."

Issues remain

Another tough issue is compensation for American property seized after the 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro. Some 5 911 lawsuits have been opened in the United States with an estimated value of $7bn to $8bn.

On Havana's side, Raul Castro has urged Obama to use his executive powers to "dismantle" the economic embargo in place since 1960, calling it the main stumbling block toward normalisation between the two nations.

Washington also wants to ensure the return of several American fugitives wanted in the United States.

Top of the list is a former member of the violent Black Panther revolutionary group, Joanne Chesimard, wanted for the killing of a New Jersey policeman in 1973 and who has been hiding in Cuba since 1984.

The US interests section in Havana will also be upgraded to a full embassy, but with little fanfare as diplomats there await the arrival of Kerry, who is due to officially hoist the American Stars and Stripes over the building in the coming weeks.

Tough negotiations eased one stumbling block, top US diplomat for Latin America Roberta Jacobson said, after insisting that American diplomats be allowed to operate freely across Cuba.

"The security presence outside the intersection has already been reduced... such that we hope people will not feel nearly the same kind of presence or threat," she told lawmakers.

And while American diplomats would still have to provide notification of their travel, they will no longer have to seek permission.

Read more on:    cuba  |  us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.