Obama and Cuban leader
Obama and Cuban leader

by Chris Dalby, Mao Pengfei

Obama and Cuban leader
Obama and Cuban leader
The raising of the U.S. flag over the newly opened U.S. embassy in Cuba on Friday marked an important step in bilateral efforts to seek rapprochement, but obstacles remain on the road to normalize ties frozen in animosity for 54 years.

The formal ceremony presided over by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came after more than nine months of efforts by the two countries to restore diplomatic ties. Their embassies in Washington and Havana were reopened on July 20.

Kerry, who was the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, praised the two countries’ decision to seek rapprochement which was announced in December 2014.

Raul Castro and Barack Obama made courageous decisions,”
“President (Barack) Obama and President (Raul) Castro made a courageous decision to stop being the prisoners of history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow,” he said.

Speaking to about 300 foreign journalists at the National Hotel of Cuba, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said, “We have decided today to establish a bilateral commission to address issues that must be urgently addressed, including those remained without a solution over 50 years.”

He said the commission should hold their first formal discussions in the next few weeks.

He also said the two governments have distinct positions on various issues, including national sovereignty, democracy, human rights, political models, international law, and the interpretation of historical events.
However, “we are ready to discuss any of these issues while accepting that it will be difficult for us to agree on some of them,” he said.

Rodriguez emphasized that the lifting of the U.S. economic blockade was essential for Cuba to have normal relations with the U.S., as was the return of the territory currently occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.
He also reiterated the need to move forward on the issue of compensating the Cuban people “for the human and economic damages produced over the last five decades.”

For his part, Kerry agreed that lifting the U.S. embargo is important for the normalization of bilateral relations.

“President Obama and his administration will advocate the lifting of the embargo,” he said, while acknowledging that the Obama administration would have a tough fight in Congress over the issue.

He also said that there are no plans to discuss the devolution of the naval base in Guantanamo or to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, which provides for a special procedure under which Cuban natives or citizens and their accompanying spouses and children get a permanent residence in the United States.

Kerry also hoped that if a Republican president follows Obama, he would not seek to negate all these efforts by returning to the old failed policy toward Cuba.

Cubans have reacted to the restoration of the U.S.-Cuban ties with a mixture of excitement and skepticism.
Recalling the moment when he learned about the news of the rapprochement in December, Cuban engineer Jesus Gonzalez said that “the news surprised most people, on the island and outside it. It may have filled many with false expectations, but time will tell.”

“I am from the newer generations that want to live in a country where access to the Internet and to new technologies is considered is normal. We want nothing to restrict us so we can decide our own future,” Maria de Jesus Francisco, an 18-year-old architecture student, told Xinhua.

However, she is aware that such changes might bring certain costs “such as losing the opportunity for every Cuban child and teenager to study for free at all levels of education.” Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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