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Cubans await flag-raising at U.S. embassy with anticipation

Aug 18, 2015 Following an announcement between Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama last December to restore diplomatic ties, both nations have reopened embassies and are working to normalize relations after enduring a strained relationship for over 50 year.

Residents of Havana recently gathered near the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital to witness the historic flag raising ceremony which will be overseen by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba had deteriorated substantially and in 1961, the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and imposed a comprehensive set of restrictions and bans on Cuba as retaliation for the nationalization of U.S. corporations’ property by Cuba.

Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years, will be accompanied by aides, members of Congress and three retired U.S. Marines, who originally last lowered the flag there in January 1961.

Hugo Orlandis Arias , a Cuban resident, who arrived early at Havana’s malecon to catch the historic moment had this to say.

“I’m in the front row because we are seeing a historic moment after more than half a century of embargo, this is an important step and maybe tomorrow they can eliminate this embargo and improve business ties and ties between the people, which they are demanding in both places,”

Despite President Obama’s use of executive power to relax some U.S. travel and trade restrictions, the Republican-controlled Congress has moved to resist his call to end America’s wider economic embargo on Cuba.

The U.S. party politicking notwithstanding, Zunamy Circo Perez, a resident of Havana expressed hope that the move made by both presidents will be beneficial to both nations.

“I have great expectations and great hopes because after so many years to have a respectful dialogue between both nations, it is something very positive for both countries. We have a lot of hopes and a lot of expectations regarding this,” she said.

According to a recent poll, a vast majority of American citizens are in support of the normalization with Cuba, some of whom were amongst the crowd of Cubans waiting near the U.S. embassy for the flag-raising ceremony.

“We’re super excited. We’re super excited to see what’s going to happen here in Cuba and actually see what could happen for the Cuban people and just really excited to be invited back,” said Zana Esquivel.

However the task of normalizing overall relations will prove a bit more complicated as Cuba wants the United States to lift all pending embargos, return the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, and halt radio and television signals beamed into Cuba.

On the other end, the United State is expected to press charges against Cuba on human rights violation. The US will also demand the return of fugitives granted asylum in Cuba as well as laying claims for American citizens whose properties were nationalized after Fidel Castro came into power.

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