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US, Cuba Relations Today: Embassies Reopened, Summer Heat Marks Renewed Diplomatic Relations

First Posted: Jul 20, 2015 11:34 AM EDT
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The U.S. and Cuba formally re-established diplomatic relations on Monday morning with the reopening of respective embassies.

Small ceremonies in Washington, D.C. and Havana marked the reopening of the Cuban and U.S. embassies, respectively. In the U.S. State Department, the Cuban flag was raised in a quiet non-ceremony with other flags recognized by the U.S.

Following the announcement to renew relations on Dec. 17, last year, as Latin Post reported, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. and Cuba officially reached a deal to reopen respective embassies on July 1.

Obama said, "With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people, we'll have more personnel at our embassy and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island that will include the Cuban government, civil society and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life."

Obama stated Secretary of State John Kerry would raise the U.S. flag at the Havana embassy, but during a press call on July 17, a State Department official said Kerry will visit the island on a later date but operations will continue on Monday.

"[Kerry] will be there to officiate for these very important events of raising the flag and unveiling the signage for the U.S. Embassy in Havana... his presence there is ceremonial," said a State Department official. "It's important, it's historic, but legally the embassy will be functioning on Monday, July 20. There is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, and we wanted the Secretary to be there to oversee these important events."

Although Kerry is not in Cuba on Monday, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson will lead the U.S. delegation in Havana. Jacobson played a crucial role in the renewed diplomatic talks since January, holding talks in both countries with her Cuban counterpart.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush used Twitter to voice his opposition to the renewed diplomatic relations. Coinciding with the tweet, the Bush campaign launched a new advertisement titled "A Free Cuba," using a portion from his presidential announcement speech.

Fellow Republican presidential candidate and Cuban American, Marco Rubio, also criticized the renewed relations.

In a statement on Monday, Rubio said, "President Obama's concessions to the Castro regime are also deeply troubling. Cuba is not just some small island with old cars; it is a country controlled by a despotic regime that provides a safe haven and base of forward operations to Russia and China in our own hemisphere. It harbors terrorists and fugitives from justice who have killed American citizens and brutalizes peaceful pro-democracy activists. I reiterate my promise to block the confirmation of any ambassador to this despicable regime."

An official Twitter page was also launched for the U.S. embassy to Cuba. The new Twitter account released a Spanish-language statement reiterating the renewed relations, continuing diplomatic functions and Kerry's visit later this summer.

According to the Pew Research Center earlier this year, 63 percent of Americans approved the Obama administration's decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba. In addition, 66 percent of Americans want the end of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Despite the support, there is skepticism. Approximately one-third of respondents (32 percent) believe the renewed relations will result in a more democratic Cuba, but 60 percent said the island will be the same as it is now.

"College graduates are particularly supportive of a restoration of diplomatic ties: 77 percent approve of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, while 78 percent favor an end to the embargo," noted Pew Research Center in January.

Must Read: Age, Dynamics Between Early and Recent Cuban Exiles Plays Important Role in Renewed Relations Debate

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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