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American Flag Raised at US Embassy in Cuba, Tensions Continue

Isabella Fuentes, Staff Reporter

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On Friday, Aug.14, the U.S. embassy was officially reopened in Havana, Cuba. The same marines that had lowered it in 1961 came to see the American flag raised, calling it a dream come true. John Kerry, the first Secretary of State to visit Cuba since Edward Stettinius 70 years ago, oversaw the ceremony.

 

“Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights,” said President Barack Obama in his statement on Cuba in July.

 

Kerry echoed that sentiment Friday when he made it clear that the Cuban people would have an improved standard of living under a democracy.

 

“We remain convinced that the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas and practice their faith,” said Kerry.

 

However, Kerry did admit that U.S. policies have not led to democracy in the past. He also remarked that Cuba’s future is in the hands of the Cubans, but the lack of changes regarding human rights continues to stand in the way of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

 

“There is no way Congress will lift the embargo if we are not making progress on issues of conscience,” said Kerry.

 

President Obama is in favor of lifting the embargo on Cuba, however the Republican congress, which was against the opening of the embassy, has denied him from doing so. After the ceremony Kerry held a press conference with Bruno Rodrigues, Cuba’s foreign minister, during which Kerry continued to press the issue.

 

“It is true that we also have concerns regarding human rights in the United States…Cuba is not a place where there are acts of racial discrimination or police brutality, or where deaths occur in incidents related to these issues, nor is the territory where people are tortured or held in a legal limbo under Cuban jurisdiction,” said Rodrigues.

 

Kerry had no response, but since then has made a statement that the comment was defensive and preemptive. Moreover, many Afro-Cubans attest that discrimination is still present and the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, an independent human rights group, has, from January through September, collected over 3,600 reports of arbitrary detentions in the year of 2013. The Humans Rights Watch cites such detentions to be used as a method of intimidating and harassing.

 

“[Opening the U.S. embassy in Cuba is] a courageous decision to stop being prisoners of history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow,” said Kerry.

 

While there are still lasting tensions between the two nations, the U.S. and Cuba have made a clear decision in the direction of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

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American Flag Raised at US Embassy in Cuba, Tensions Continue