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U.S. and Cuba restore relations with reopened embassies

The Cuban Embassy in Washington, closed since 1961, reopened this morning, starting a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. But sticking points remain, including Havana's demand for an end to a crippling trade embargo, and U.S. calls for Cuban democracy and human rights. The NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The United States and Cuba officially normalized diplomatic relations today and the Cuban Embassy in Washington, closed since 1961, reopened this morning.

    The NewsHour's P.J. Tobia has this report.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    With a ceremonial flourish, the Cuban flag was raised above the embassy in Washington this morning, a sight not seen in over five decades.

    As the mission officially opened, so did a new post-Cold War chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. But deep differences between the two countries remain, as was evident when Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez spoke inside the embassy.

  • BRUNO RODRIGUEZ, Foreign Minister, Cuba (through interpreter):

    The historic events we are living today will only make sense with the removal of the blockade, and the return of occupied territory in Guantanamo.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    The U.S. and Cuba severed diplomatic ties in 1961, when Cuban President Fidel Castro referred to the American Embassy as a nest of spies.

    Now, after more than two years of negotiations, relations are slowly thawing. But sticking points remain, chief among them, Havana's demand for an end to a crippling trade embargo and U.S. calls for democracy and human rights in Cuba.

    Reaction was mixed on the streets outside the Cuban Embassy, as protesters from Cuba and around Latin America gathered.

  • ROSA MARIA PAYA:

    I support the Cuban people, definitely.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    Rosa Maria Paya's father was a Cuban opposition leader who died in Cuba under mysterious circumstances in 2012. She urged the U.S. to seize this opportunity to help improve Cuba's human rights record.

  • ROSA MARIA PAYA:

    So far, we have seen very concrete and specific steps from the part of the American administration, but not support and specific and concrete support to the demands of the Cuban citizens, to the demands of change for human rights.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Cuban counterpart this afternoon at the State Department. Cuba's flag now hangs in the building's lobby, where it was installed in the pre-dawn hours without fanfare.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are taking a historic and long overdue step in the right direction. To keep moving forward, both governments must proceed in a spirit of openness and mutual respect.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    But on Capitol Hill, there remains significant opposition to the move.

    REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), Florida: I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to try to block the expansion of a U.S. Embassy in Cuba, to try to stop the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to the island.

  • P.J. TOBIA:

    Meanwhile, in Cuba, the U.S. Embassy reopened for business in Havana. Cubans lined up to apply for visas to travel to the U.S. welcomed the historic occasion.

    The pomp and circumstance will wait until mid-August, when Kerry makes his historic visit to formally raise the American flag.

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