“We’ll see if it is extra than simply speak”, stated Leyania Martinez, 44, a neighbor of the U.S. embassy who watched the ceremony…
Presidential contender Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator from Florida, slammed the Obama administration for the absence of Cuban dissidents from the flag-raising ceremony.
Not all the talk was as warm as the sunny summer day.
It seemed that virtually all of Cuba was glued to television or listening by cellphone as Kerry directly addressed the island’s people on political reform.
Several issues from the half centrury of hostilities between the U.S. and Cuba still remain, despite the re-opening of diplomatic ties. As the flag was raised, there were loud cheers and applause from the crowd of U.S. and Cuban dignitaries and longtime proponents of U.S.-Cuban engagement, and from people watching from neighbouring balconies.
Speaking in Spanish, Kerry said the ceremony showed that the U.S. and Cuba “are no longer enemies, but neighbors”.
“Cuba is not a place where you can see police brutality or racial discrimination”, he said. “The territory where torture occurs and people are held in legal limbo isn’t under Cuban jurisdiction”.
The Americans will press Cuba on human rights, the return of fugitives granted asylum and the claims of Americans whose property was nationalized by Fidel Castro’s government.
“We strongly believe that, despite the differences that exist between the governments of Cuba and the United States, which will not disappear, it is possible to build civilized and respectful and productive relations – different in nature from those which have existed in the past”.
“The whole criminal code is designed to restrict freedom of expression and association, under the framework that the Cuban state is under attack”, Marselha Gonclaves Margarin, one of Amnesty International’s Latin America experts told Yahoo News, noting that the implementation of the laws in question coincided with the enforcement of the U.S. embargo.
Back in the United States, Obama’s conservative opponents had harsh words on the thawing of the Cold War conflict.
Kerry said that human rights would be “at the top of our agenda” in discussions Friday with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., born in Cuba and the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, took to Twitter and CNN to protest the U.S. embassy.
In a minutely choreographed event, the flag was delivered by the three US marines, now in their 70s, who had taken it down in 1961 when president Dwight Eisenhower announced he was breaking relations with Fidel Castro’s regime.
“More democracy, elections, we hope for that to come with this diplomatic opening”, said Julio Garcia, a 51-year-old mechanic.
However, he reiterated Havana’s demand to re-establish relations with the United States, which have been ruptured more than 50 years ago.
Cuba has been a Communist-run country and Kerry will also be meeting the dissidents at the embassy residence in Havana later on Friday.
But he also argued that “Cuba’s future is for Cubans to shape”, adding that the responsibility “rests, as it should, not with any outside entity, but exclusively with the citizens of this country”.