The United States and Cuba made history on Friday, August 14, 2015, when the American flag was raised in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, about 54 years ago. The flag now flying high in Cuba signifies the end of a Cold War-era diplomatic freeze between the neighboring countries.
During the ceremonial rising of the flag, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a few words, making him the highest-ranking U.S. official to stand on the communist countries’ territory since World War II.
“We are gathered here because our leaders made a courageous decision to stop being prisoners of history,” Kerry said. “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. In the United States, that means recognizing that U.S. policy is not the anvil on which Cuba’s future will be forged.”
The history at the ceremony came full circle. Three of the Marines—Larry Morris, Mike East, and Jim Tracy—who lowered the U.S. flag at the Embassy in 1961 stood on the very same ground, Friday, to watch the flag raised back up.
Kerry acknowledged the men’s presence, stating, “Larry, Mike, and Jim had done their jobs, but they also made a bold promise – that one day they would return to Havana and raise the flag again.”
It’s been 54 years, but the men stayed true to their promise.
“Larry, Jim, Mike. This is your cue to deliver on words that would make any diplomat proud, just as they would any member of the United States Marine Corps: ‘Promise made, promise kept’,” Kerry told the men just moments before the flag flew above the embassy.
The end to this Cold War-era isolation is due to the leaders of the two nations.
“I applaud President Obama and President Castro for having the courage to bring us together in the face of considerable opposition,” Kerry said.
This historic ceremony follows the July inauguration of the Cuban Embassy in Washington. The re-establishment of the embassies is a vital part of re-gaining good relations and economic ties between the two countries.
The end of this isolation was announced in December when President Barack Obama renounced the “outdated approach”. Cuba was then dropped from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in May.
Though the two countries are working towards maintaining peace and normalized relations, there still remains an extreme divide in ideologies.
Kerry acknowledged the remaining obstacles.
“We are all aware that, notwithstanding President Obama’s new policy, the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place and can only be lifted by Congressional action—a step we strongly favor,” Kerry said.
History has been made, but several U.S. lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates are strongly opposed to the mending of relations with Cuba.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban American and GOP presidential candidate spoke on the subject in his speech at the Foreign Policy Initiative in New York on Friday.
“The deal with Cuba threatens America’s moral standing in our hemisphere and around the world, it brings legitimacy to a state sponsor of terror, and further empower an ally of China and Russia that sits just 90 miles from our shore,” Senator Rubio said.
According to NBC News, Kerry was scheduled to meet with several Cuban protestors who were not permitted to attend the flag-raising out of respect to the government, which views them as U.S. sponsored mercenaries.
Some believe this was done in order to keep the transition towards mending relations a smooth one.
“The accommodation of the Castro regime comes at the expense of the freedom and democracy that all Cubans deserve, but Secretary Kerry’s visit is especially insulting for Cuba’s dissidents,” Former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, released in a statement. “Those courageous Cubans whose only crime is to speak out for freedom and democracy will be kept away from the official ceremony opening the U.S. Embassy is yet another concession to the Castros.”