Yesterday marked the official restoration of diplomatic ties, after they were severed fifty-four years ago, between Cold War-foes Cuba and the United States. The historic Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. (which is quite beautiful) held a small ceremony led by Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez to commemorate the event a few hours after the US State Department added Cuba’s flag to the line of flags for other US diplomatic partners.
The restoration of full diplomatic relations comes after two years of intense, and at times, secret negotiations that involved spies, Pope Francis, and yes, artificial insemination. In a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Rodríguez, Secretary of State John Kerry called it an "historic day; a day for removing barriers." Mr. Rodríguez, in his meetings with Mr. Kerry yesterday, "emphasized that the totally lifting of the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages are crucial to be able to move towards the normalization of relations."
While some have criticized President Obama's actions regarding Cuba including Marco Rubio who said he would rollback all actions taken by the Obama administration if he were elected president, many others celebrated the restoration of diplomatic ties, the lifting of some travel restrictions and limits on remittances to Cuba, and the removal of Cuba from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism earlier this year. Nonetheless there remain many issues for the two countries to resolve.
The issues, as Mr. Rodríguez stated, include disputes over Guantánamo Bay, the US naval facility used to detain terror suspects, and the ending of the trade embargo, which devastated the Cuban economy. While President Obama supports the lifting of the embargo and closing of the detention center in Guantánamo, both of these require action by the Republican-controlled Congress. As the Senate is expected to oppose the confirmation of any US ambassador to Cuba, President Obama will likely delay the nomination.
Although the US Embassy in Havana is open now, Secretary John Kerry will travel in August to the island and hold an official ceremony. As in Washington D.C. yesterday, there will presumably be a few shouts of “Viva Cuba” and “Viva Fidel.”