Diplomats were in place, the seal of the United States was set to be hoisted onto the building — and half a century after it came down in a Cold War chill, the American flag is set to fly again over a U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Secretary of State John Kerry was poised to raise the Stars and Stripes on Friday, cementing the renewal of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. He becomes the first person in his position to visit the communist island since World War II.
“My friends, it doesn’t take a GPS to realize that the road of mutual isolation and estrangement that the United States and Cuba were traveling is not the right one and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction,” Kerry said. “In the United States, that means recognizing that U.S. policy is not the anvil on which Cuba’s future will be forged.”
The ceremony was rich with history: Three of the very Marines who lowered the flag at the Embassy in 1961 were hand to watch it fly again.
The historic shift from Cold War era relations was memorialized in July when Cuban officials inaugurated their embassy in Washington.
Reopening the embassies is an important step toward normalizing relations and economic ties between the two countries after decades of Cold War hostilities. The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with the communist island country in 1961.
President Barack Obama announced in December that the U.S. was ending an “outdated approach” of isolating Cuba. In May, the U.S. dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
However, deep ideological differences still divide the two nations.
There are thorny disputes over mutual claims for economic reparations, Cuba’s insistence on an end to the 53-year-old trade embargo and American calls for Cuba to improve on human rights and democracy.