WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States had agreed to the historic step of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and will raise its flag over a US Embassy in Havana later this summer.
“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” Obama said in a statement delivered in the White House Rose Garden.
“A year ago it might have seemed impossible that the United States would be once again raising our flag, the Stars and Stripes, over an embassy in Havana.”
Obama said the controversial move would allow the United States to have more influence over its former enemy and he urged Congress to go a step further by lifting the US embargo on the island.
The move is a victory for the president, who campaigned for the White House in 2008 on a foreign policy platform of reaching out to US foes.
“With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people,” he said. “We will have more personnel at our embassy and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.”
That influence may not be warmly welcomed in Havana. The Cuban government issued a statement on Wednesday asking the United States to stop its radio and TV broadcasts into the country, end “subversive” programs there and return the US military base in Guantanamo to Cuba.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.