The American flag is flying over Cuba for the first time in half a century.
Earlier this year, The United States moved to reinstate its diplomatic relationship with the island nation after cutting ties with the island nation in the early 1960s. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry commemorated the reopened American embassy in Cuba by raising Old Glory once again.
“We are gathered here because our leaders made a courageous decision to stop being prisoners of history,” Kerry said at the embassy earlier today.
While diplomatic relations have been restored, tensions remain between the two countries. Hours before the flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy, Cuban state media released an article under former leader Fidel Castro’s name that blasted the U.S. for the damage cause by the embargo. Castro also mentioned the U.S dropping an atomic bomb on Japan.
“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.
Members of the 2016 GOP presidential field used the occasion to criticize the Obama administration’s move to restore the U.S. relationship with Cuba, which including removal of the country from list of terrorism sponsors.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) blasted the White House for adding “legitimacy to a state sponsor of terror.”
“President Obama has rewarded the Castro regime for its repressive tactics and persistent, patient opposition to American interests,” Rubio said Friday. “He has unilaterally given up on a half-century worth of policy toward the Castro regime that was agreed upon by presidents of both parties.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had similar criticism of closer U.S.-Cuba relations.
The three marines who lowered the American flag from the embassy in 1961—retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Jim Tracy, then-Lance Cpl. Larry C. Morris, and then-Cpl. F.W. Mike East—were present at the ceremony.
“Larry, Mike and Jim had done their jobs,” Kerry said, “but they also made a bold promise—that one day they would return to Havana and raise the flag again.”
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III