Posts

HAVANA, July 20   (WSVN) — The United States and Cuba will mark the end of 54 years of hostilities and the restoration of full diplomatic relations with dual embassy reopenings in Washington, D.C. and Havana, as well as a ceremony in the nation’s capital Monday morning.

A sign designating the building at 2630 16th St. N.W. in Washington, D.C. a “Cuban Interest Section” has been taken down. On Monday, the Cuban flag will be raised on a pole located in the front, and the structure will become the Cuban Embassy. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, has traveled from Havana to D.C. will lead the ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

Speaking in Spanish, Cuban president Raúl Castro said the development is encouraging but it will nevertheless take time. “A new stage will begin, long and complex, on the road towards normalization of relations, which will require the will to find a solution to the problems that have accumulated over more than five decades,” he said.

On Monday, Rodriguez will also hold a joint news conference with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department. The Cuban foreign minister is expected to press for the end of the embargo, as well as the return of the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

Kerry, on the other hand, is expected to raise concerns about human rights and a free press in Cuba, a sentiment echoed by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “We would like to see the rights of political opponents of the Cuban government inside of Cuba not be thrown in jail because of their political views,” said Earnest. “The second would be to respect the rights of independent journalists in Cuba.”

In Havana, the U.S. Interest Section will become a full-fledged embassy. Chief of the Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis will see his title upgraded to chargé d’affaires. However, the U.S. flag will not fly over the embassy until Kerry visits Havana later this summer. “I look forward to taking part in the reopening of our United States Embassy and the beginning of a new relationship and new era with the people of Cuba,” said Kerry.

Some, including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have been opposed to restoring diplomatic relations between both countries, and has been pushing for change on the island first. “They still have violations of human rights. They don’t have a free and independent press, they have no rule of law, no political parties, no free elections,” she said.

Monday morning’s ceremony in D.C. is expected to air in Cuban TV. About 500 guests are expected at the event.

havana-live-raul-castroHAVANA,  July  16  (Reuters) – Cuba is prepared to break with the contentious past and peacefully coexist with the United States, Cuban President Raul Castro said on Wednesday as the two former adversaries are set to restore diplomatic ties.

“We are talking about forging a new kind of relationship between both states, different from our entire common history,” Castro, 84, told the Cuban National Assembly, according to official media.

Cuba and the United States will re-establish diplomatic relations on Monday after a 54-year break and reopen embassies in each other’s capitals.

The United States and Cuba began secret negotiations on restoring ties in mid-2013, leading to the historic announcement on Dec. 17, 2014, when Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama said they had swapped prisoners and would seek to normalize relations.

The previous deep freeze in U.S.-Cuba ties dated to Jan. 1, 1959, when rebels led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro toppled the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista. The Castros halted the longtime U.S.-friendly business climate in Cuba and drew ever closer to the Soviet Union.

That led to a troubled history including a failed U.S.-organized invasion of Cuba by a force of exiles in 1961 and a thrust to the brink of nuclear war in 1962 over Soviet missiles stationed in Cuba.

With diplomatic ties restored, the two countries separated by 90 miles (145 km) of sea will now begin the more difficult and lengthy task of normalizing overall relations.

“The revolutionary government is willing to advance toward the normalization of relations, convinced that both countries can cooperate and coexist in a civilized, mutually beneficial way, while contributing to peace, security, stability and development,” Castro said.

Since taking over as president for his ailing brother in 2008, Raul Castro, the longtime defense minister, has proven less bellicose toward America than his brother, now 88 and retired.

Castro said completely normal relations with the United States would be impossible as long as Washington maintains its economic embargo against the island.

“We hope that (Obama) continues to use his executive authority to dismantle this policy,” Castro said.

Obama, a Democrat, has eased parts of the U.S. embargo but would need the Republican-controlled Congress to lift it completely.

Castro also said normalization would require the return to Cuban sovereignty of the U.S. naval base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, although American officials have said Guantanamo is not a topic of discussion in talks with Cuba.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-castro-sees-cuba-us-breaking-with-past-coexisting-in-peace-2015-7#ixzz3g4MP8cx6

obamaHAVANA, July 1 President Obama on Wednesday announced his plans to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, declaring that the two nations were ready to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals and to start a “new chapter” of engagement after more than a half-century of estrangement.“Our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people, but there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things,” Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden at the White House, taking note of the decades of hostility born of the Cold War that prompted the United States to isolate its neighbor to the south, a strategy he said had failed.

The diplomatic breakthrough is the most concrete progress to date in Mr. Obama’s push, announced in December after months of secret talks, for an official rapprochement with Cuba.

He also renewed calls on Wednesday for the lifting of a trade embargo with Cuba that has grown stricter over the years as Republicans in Congress, some of them Cuban-Americans, have pressed for a hard line against Havana.

“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” the president said. “When something isn’t working, we can and should change.”

Mr. Obama said that Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Havana this summer “to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

Mr. Kerry, who is in Vienna for talks with Iranian officials on a potential nuclear accord, said that he would travel to Havana for the reopening of the United States Embassy. It would be the first visit to Cuba by a secretary of state since 1945, he said.

Acknowledging that the United States and Cuba continued to have “sharp differences” over human rights, Mr. Kerry said reopening the embassy would enable American officials to “engage the Cuban government more often and at a higher level.”

“This step has been long overdue,” Mr. Kerry added, declining to take questions.

Asked if the American diplomats in Cuba would have free access to talk to Cuban citizens, he said: “We’ll talk about all those details later.”

The United States already has a limited diplomatic outpost in Havana, called an interests section, in the same seven-story building on the Malecón waterfront that served as the embassy until 1961, the year President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in response to tensions with the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro.

Republicans who oppose the thaw with Cuba have vowed to block funding for an embassy and the confirmation of a new ambassador. But senior administration officials said on Wednesday that they did not believe they needed Congress to approve new money for the building and that they were in no rush to install a new ambassador to replace the career diplomat currently running the interests section.

The diplomat, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, was selected expressly because he is seen as someone who could serve as the acting ambassador pending a permanent appointment, one of the officials said on Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the release of details by the State Department.

Mr. DeLaurentis, who holds the rank of ambassador, has served at the United Nations, as a deputy assistant secretary of state and in Havana as the political-economic section chief.

Cuba has an interests section in a stately manor in the Adams Morgan section of Washington that could be upgraded. In May, Cuba announced that its banking services for that office had been restored, a precondition to reopening a full embassy. In recent weeks, Cuba also repaved the driveway, repainted the fence and erected a large flagpole on the front lawn to await the formal raising of its flag.

The official said that would happen on July 20, but it was not yet clear when Mr. Kerry would make the trip to Havana to cut the ribbon on the American Embassy there.