August 14, 2015
The Cuban flag was raised over Havana’s embassy in Washington on Monday 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. In both the U.S. and Cuba, the atmosphere is hopeful that the reopening of embassies marks the beginning of more positive changes to come.
Cuba and the United States took another historic step in normalizing relations Friday morning with the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
The landmark event begins the next phase of establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries after a more than 50-year freeze based on the principles of “non-interventions and respect for sovereignty,” teleSUR correspondent Maria Belen Barriga reported.
In both the U.S. and Cuba, and across Latin America, the atmosphere is hopeful that the move marks the beginning of more positive changes to come.
“Flags of both countries, U.S. and Cuba, wave in Havana.”
“This new stage may take us closer to overcoming the obstacles that exist so that the United States and Cuba are not enemies but simply neighbors in the future,” Cuban lawyer Jose Pertierra told teleSUR.
Similarly, on the U.S. side, U.S. citizen Brad McKee told teleSUR, “I look forward to our people of the U.S. going to Cuba and that Cuban people can come to the U.S. normally and more freely.”
But despite the change the new U.S. Embassy in Havana represents, Cubans remain firm that the U.S. will not sway its socialist politics.
“Perhaps some dreamers and others who are superficial think that this will be the end of socialism,” said former Cuban diplomat Eladio Aguiar. “No sir.”
“The people in Havana don’t care about the heat, they patiently wait for the historic moment.”
While the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana is an important first step, lifting the blockade and shutting down the U.S. military base in Guantanamo continues to be the “primary demand” of the Cuban government, teleSUR’s Barriga reported.
“The U.S. would receive a tremendous benefit through the advances in technology and medicine that there are in Cuba,” Pertierra told teleSUR, referencing specific vaccines that are currently available in Cuba but not in the U.S. due to the blockade. “If the blockade is lifted many people in the United States can benefit from these advances.”
Despite the challenge of being under the blockade for more than five decades, Cuba has made monumental advances in medicine and has also introduced new policies in recent years, independent of renewed U.S.-Cuba relations.
According to former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray in an interview with Democracy Now on Friday, some of these recent changes have included economic transformation, immigration reform, and broadening of television and internet access.
“All these things are happening not because the U.S. is pressing Cuba to do that, but because there is a political will inside the government to do so,” Alzugaray told Democracy Now. “This is the reflection of a government that is sure of what they are doing. And I think most Cubans are happy with that.
Alzugaray said that the historic U.S. efforts to force regime change in Cuba cannot be overestimated, and normalizing relations after decades of Cuba being “under seige” will take time. Visits by heads of state would be another positive step to rebuild trust, but may still be in the distant future, he added.
According to a study released this week by Pew Research Center, the majority of people both in the United States and Latin America overwhelmingly approve of the normalization of relations and see it as a positive step forward.
A strong advocate of renewed U.S.-Cuba ties, Pope Francis, will visit Cuba next month before traveling to the United States. The pontiff is expected to support calls from both Havana and some in Washington to lift the U.S. blockade on Cuba. Pope Francis played an important role in brokering talks between the U.S. and Cuba last year to improve diplomatic relations.