U.S., Cuba mark new era

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - WASHINGTON POL­I­TICS/FI­NANCE

Cuba’s blue, red and whites­tarred flag was hoisted Mon­day at the coun­try’s em­bassy in Washington, sig­nalling the start of a new post-Cold War era in U.S.Cuba re­la­tions.

In swel­ter­ing heat and hu­mid­ity, Cuban For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez presided over the fla­grais­ing cer­e­mony hours af­ter full diplo­matic re­la­tions with the United States were re­stored at the stroke of mid­night when an agree­ment to re­sume nor­mal ties took ef­fect. Ear­lier, with­out cer­e­mony, the Cuban flag was added in the lobby of the State Depart­ment along­side those of other coun­tries with which the U.S. has diplo­matic ties. U.S. and Cuban diplo­mats in Washington and Ha­vana also noted the up­grade in so­cial media posts.

Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple gath­ered on the street out­side the em­bassy, cheer­ing as the Cuban na­tional an­them was played and three Cuban sol­diers in dress uni­forms stood at the base of the flag­pole and raised the flag.

But there were also signs of the sore points that con­tinue in the U.S.-Cuba re­la­tion­ship. In re­marks in­side the em­bassy Ro­driguez cited Cuban in­de­pen­dence leader Jose Marti, who he noted had paid trib­ute to Amer­ica’s val­ues but also warned of its “ex­cess crav­ing for dom­ina- tion.” Cuba was able to sur­vive the past 50 years only be­cause of the “wise lead­er­ship of Fidel Cas­tro, the his­toric leader of the Cuban revo­lu­tion whose ideas we’ll al­ways re­vere,” Ro­driguez said.

He also slammed the U.S. for con­tin­u­ing to hold on to Guan­tanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary prison con­tin­ues to hold terror sus­pects. Ro­driguez said Guan­tanamo was a “ne­far­i­ous con­se­quence” of U.S. at­tempts to dom­i­nate the hemi­sphere.

“Only the lift­ing of the eco­nomic and com­mer­cial and fi­nan­cial block­ade which has caused so much harm and suf­fer­ing to our peo­ple, the re­turn of oc- cu­pied ter­ri­tory at Guan­tanamo and the re­spect for Cuban sovereignty will lend some mean­ing to this his­toric event to which we bear wit­ness to­day,” Ro­driguez said, re­peat­ing de­mands the Cuban lead­ers have made through­out the nor­mal­iza­tion process.

On a more con­cil­ia­tory note, Ro­driguez thanked Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for tak­ing steps to ease sanc­tions thus far and call­ing on Congress to re­peal the eco­nomic em­bargo.

In Ha­vana, mean­while, a car­ni­val at­mos­phere reigned around the new U.S. Em­bassy over­look­ing Ha­vana’s Male­con sea­side prom­e­nade. By mid­morn­ing, the Cuban gov­ern­ment had pulled back sev­eral of the eight or so se­cu­rity guards who had stood watch.

A pair of of­fi­cers stood on each cor­ner around the build­ing, smil­ing and wish­ing “buenos dias” to passers-by in­stead of cast­ing stony glares. Cu­ri­ous Cubans clus­tered around the for­est of flag­poles at the front of the em­bassy, snap­ping photos as U.S. tourists posed for self­ies in front of the build­ing.

The United States and Cuba sev­ered diplo­matic re­la­tions in 1961 and since the 1970s have been rep­re­sented in each other’s cap­i­tals by lim­ited-ser­vice in­ter­ests sec­tions.

AP PHOTO

Ed­wardo Clark, a Cuban-Amer­i­can, holds an Amer­i­can flag and a Cuban flag as he cel­e­brates out­side the new Cuban em­bassy in Washington Mon­day.

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