Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US have been officially restored after 50 years. In a historic ceremony on Monday, the Cuban flag was raised to mark the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C.
The ceremony was attended by crowds of both supporters of restoring diplomacy and protesters citing alleged human rights violations in Cuba.
Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba’s foreign minister, visited the Capitol for the first time to attend the flag-raising event. At the ceremony, he stressed the necessity of the US to completely lift its trade embargo and return the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba for full diplomacy to exist.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has been working on US-Cuban policy since 1977, voiced similar concerns after the flag-raising ceremony, stating that while the historic embassy openings are a vital step forward, “much work remains.”
“Congress must act now to lift the travel ban and end the failed embargo. It’s past time for Congress to repeal these Cold War relics and chart a new path forward for our two nations,” said Lee.
Diplomatic ties were severed in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution when Fidel Castro’s government nationalized US property in Cuba. Fearing Communist insurgencies would spread throughout Latin America, the Eisenhower administration tightened its embargo of Cuba and froze all relations.
During the following decades, relations only worsened following the failed counterrevolutionary Bay of Pigs attack by the US and the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
On Monday, the US embassy in Havana also became functional but will not be officially designated as an embassy until Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Havana later this summer.
He will have been the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years.