Cuban-American Relations Continue to Crawl Forward

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The relationship between the United States and Cuba has been slowly warming since December, when it was announced that leaders from the two formerly acrimonious nations were moving toward normalizing relations. One of the biggest steps toward that goal reached fruition on Friday, as the U.S. flag was just raised above the American embassy in Havana.

The scene at the American embassy Friday was a heavy one, rife in symbolism, as the same marines who took down the flag over 50 years ago were the ones who put it up.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been an instrumental player in this new era of relations with Cuba, presided over the ceremony, calling it a “historic moment.” Kerry is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba since relations turned sour after former President Fidel Castro took power.

While the ceremonial re-opening of the embassy is certainly a big step, the fact that is just one step is important to recognize. Cuban-American relations been improving steadily, but slowly, since that fateful December announcement. For example, in April, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The two governments conducted a series of talks that wrapped up in May. Most recently, on July 20, diplomatic relations were officially restored between the U.S. and Cuba. The Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. opened on July 20 as did the U.S. embassy in Havana, but the flag ceremony was only hosted at the Cuban Embassy on that day.

The fact that the American-Cuban relationship has progressed in such steps really is representative of the fact that there is still a lot of work to do. One of the most contentious sticking points is the continued American trade embargo. Despite no longer serving as President, Fidel Castro has particularly criticized the United States over the continued embargo. Yesterday, he stated that the United States owes Cuba “many million of dollars” because of the loss in trade that resulted from the embargo. However, lifting it requires Congressional action, not executive, and the Republican Congress hasn’t particularly warmed to the idea.  There were also concerns over the fact that Cuban dissidents weren’t invited to the flag-raising ceremony; Kerry instead met with them separately. 

While there’s a lot to be done to reach fully normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, these steps in the right direction do bode well. It’s certainly a marked difference from even just a year ago–the coming years are almost guaranteed to bring more changes. 

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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