Cuba and US reaffirm willingness to continue talks

Hoisting the Cuban flag for the first time after 54 years was of special significance, Rodriguez noted during a press conference by the two officials at the State Department in Washington.

Rodriguez described the meeting with Kerry as constructive, during which they reviewed the topics discussed by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro during the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama, and especially progress made since the December 17 announcement of the US-Cuba rapprochement.

Kerry said they spoke a lot, not only about Cuba but of the Latin American region, and welcomed the first visit by a foreign minister of the Caribbean nation since 1958, now marked by the reopening of the embassy in Washington after more than five decades.

“It is a historic day, a day in which barriers were knocked down,” he pointed out.

In this regard he said that the United States welcomes the new beginning of its relations with the Cuban people and government and reaffirmed they are determined to live as good neighbours, on the basis of mutual respect.

For his part, Rodriguez highlighted the solidarity of Latin America, of the rest of the nations of the world and of many US citizens and Cubans living in the United States that persisted for years so the two countries had better relations.

He thanked President Obama for the initiative in Congress to lift the economic embargo and stressed that the US administration has taken positive steps, but noted that Obama still has executive powers to end the blockade and return the leased US base at Guantanamo.

The two officials confirmed the interest in continuing talks, knowing beforehand that it is a complex process and will require the efforts of both countries.

Similarly, Kerry assured the Cuban people the commitment of his government to do its part in the agreements reached, describing them as a historic step in the right direction.

The secretary of state had words of congratulations for Rodriguez and the Cuban people at the ceremony held on Monday morning in Washington.

At the press conference, Kerry confirmed what had been rumoured in the corridors of the State Department, namely, that he will travel to Havana on August 14 to participate in the opening ceremony of his country’s embassy.

“We want all citizens in the US and Cuba to look at the future of relations with hope, because this July 20 we started to make good the damage made and opened a path closed for a long time,” he said.

He noted that the reopening of embassies is not the end of the profound differences existing between Havana and Washington.

Kerry mentioned some issues on which the two countries can cooperate, such as the fight against drug trafficking and human trafficking, communications and law enforcement, among others.

Rodriguez mentioned some of the crucial points that will mark the stage that now begins towards normalization of relations: the lifting of the embargo, the return of the Guantanamo naval base, and compensation to the people of Cuba for economic and human damage.

He told his US counterpart that he will be waiting for him in Havana in a few weeks to welcome him on the occasion of the opening of the US Embassy.
At the end of the meeting, Rodriguez said he was pleased with Monday’s meeting at the State Department, which lasted about an hour and a half, and with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans for Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, on Tuesday expressed their rejection of the reopening of the Cuban embassy and announced their opposition in Congress to the appointment of the future ambassador.

“From now on Cuban spies have a base in the United States, which is the new Cuban embassy,” Curbelo said during a press conference in the congressional office of Ros-Lehtinen in Miami, Cubasi reported on Tuesday.

“This is one of the most irresponsible foreign policy that has been carried out in decades. Obama insists on embracing a government that is an enemy of the United States, a government that continues to support terrorism,” Curbelo added.

Ros-Lehtinen also said that, from her seat in Congress, she “will prevent the appointment of a US ambassador” to Havana.

“We will do everything possible so that the embassy does not receive funds. So far we have been able to cancel that effort and the current administration has failed to achieve the six million dollars it is seeking for the new embassy; it has received zero,” the congresswoman told EFE.

As for the immigration status of Cubans in the United States, Ros-Lehtinen ruled out the possibility that in the short term they would lose the benefits they have enjoyed since 1966 with the Cuban Adjustment Act.

She considered that “a legislative bill would create too much controversy,” but added that certainly the issue has been given a wrong treatment because “many come as political refugees but travel to the island three times a year.”

In turn, Diaz-Balart dismissed the possibility of a lifting of the commercial blockade against the island, and insisted that the “last word” on the re-establishment of diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba will come from the Senate and the Congress.

“We know that the Senate will not confirm the ambassador, and that funds have requested and have been denied. So they can change the sign of ‘interests section’ and put the embassy sign instead but they will not be able to turn it into a real embassy,” he said.




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