As the Cuban flag wafts in the breeze over the newly opened Havana embassy in Washington, over two years of negotiations have finally paid off.
The U.S. put a stop to diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3 1961.
“The historic events we are living today will only make sense with the removal of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes so much deprivation and damage to our people, the return of occupied territory in Guantanamo, and respect for the sovereignty of Cuba,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said during the embassy opening ceremony.
While U.S. President Barack Obama has eased travel and business restrictions, a lot still remains on the negotiating table. Namely, U.S. operations at Guantanamo Bay and the countless properties left by Cuban Americans – as yet to be discussed.
Yet Obama’s Cuba decision has also met some resistance, as rival candidate Jeb Bush tweeted his disapproval.
Obama’s rush to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is wrong. This embassy will only serve to further legitimize repressive regime.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 20, 2015
The sun also rises
The opening falls neatly in line with birthday 116 of author Ernest Hemingway, famed almost as much for his Havana booze fuelled binges as for his literary prowess.
The author’s Havana home, Finca Vigia, is also due a $900,000 refurbishment, set to save around 9000 books, countless letters and photographs.
“I respect writing very much, the writer not at all, except as the instrument to do the writing. When a writer retires deliberately from life or is forced out of it by some defect, his writing has a tendency to atrophy, just like a man’s limb when it’s not used.” Hemingway said during a 1965 interview.
Still the author, a firm friend of Fidel Castro, would surely have a lot to say on the U.S. and Cuba restoring diplomatic ties.
Engagement over estrangement
While five decades of hostility have been shelved for now, future negotiations still need to be hashed out.
“This milestone does not signify an end to differences that still separate our governments, but it does reflect the reality that the Cold War ended long ago, and that the interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement, and that we have begun a process of full normalization that is sure to take time but will also benefit people in both Cuba and the United States.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented.
However, embargo terms still stand.
“I think that this is going to allow a more porous, if you will, embargo.” Maria de los Angeles Torres, a Cuban-born professor at the University of Illinois reflects.
“In the last six months, we have seen there’s been an uptick in travel to Cuba, that restrictions on how much money could be sent to relatives has actually been expanded, so there’s more money going into Cuba.”
Still for now, both countries should raise a glass of one of Hemingway’s favorite mojito cocktails, marking a new era in Latin American history.
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