History is being made in Washington today when Cuba raises its flag and officially reopens its U.S. Embassy after 54 years. Hundreds are gathering for this historic moment, including U.S. and Cuban lawmakers and diplomats, activists and artists, scholars and historians. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez is leading a delegation of over two dozen officials from Havana, including Cuba’s chief negotiator, Josefina Vidal. Also among the attendees is Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez and former Parliament President Ricardo Alarcón. This afternoon, Bruno Rodríguez will hold a joint news conference with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department, where Cuba’s flag was raised earlier this morning, joining the flags of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the U.S. In Havana, the U.S. Embassy will also reopen its doors today. Kerry is set to travel there later this summer for the formal inauguration ceremony where a U.S. flag will be hoisted. Cubans have welcomed the diplomatic rapprochement with jubilation. For more, we’re joined by Cuban-American attorney José Pertierra and Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
As U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations are officially restored after five decades, we speak to two activists who have spent decades opposing U.S. policy on Cuba: the actor Danny Glover and CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. Both have traveled to Cuba many times over the past decades despite the U.S. embargo. Benjamin lived on the island for four years and has written three books on Cuba. They are both in Washington today for the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after 54 years. The reopened Cuban Embassy was built in 1917, becoming the first diplomatic building in this neighborhood and helping to establish this area as a diplomatic center. Fidel Castro visited the embassy in 1959 after he overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Two years later, in 1961, the United States unilaterally broke off relations with Cuba. The last time the United States and Cuba had diplomatic ties, President Dwight Eisenhower was in office. Today’s opening of embassies is just the first step in normalizing relationships between the two countries. On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro applauded the diplomatic renewal but called on Obama to use his executive powers to remove the ongoing U.S. trade and financial embargo. So far, the Republican majority in Congress has rejected Obama’s calls to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Obama’s congressional opponents have also vowed to block any ambassadorial nominee to Cuba and have denounced the decision to formally remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
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