President Obama Made Gigantic Steps towards reopening the Cuban Embassy. It was long overdue.
HAVANA — After more than a half-century of Cold War estrangement, the United States reopened its six-story embassy in Havana on Monday, and Cuba raised a flag outside its own stately embassy in Washington.
The resumption of diplomatic relations between the two nations — a historic milestone in the official thaw that President Obama set in motion last year — was the culmination of months of negotiations to overcome decades of enmity.
But the promise of restoring full ties remained remote. Even as top American and Cuban diplomats held a meeting at the State Department for the first time in decades, Cuba’s foreign minister railed against the United States’ travel restrictions, trade embargo and presence at the military base at Guantánamo Bay.
The Cuban official, Bruno Rodríguez, said those policies must end before the two countries could bring their grudge to a close, and lend “some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing.”
“The challenge is huge,” Mr. Rodríguez said at the embassy in Washington, where he lifted the same flag that flew over the three-story brick and stone building when ties were abruptly severed in 1961.
Mr. Rodríguez invoked the “nefarious consequences” of the Platt Amendment, a series of conditions written into the Cuban Constitution that gave the United States sway over Cuban affairs and the right to establish military bases in Cuba.
Many questions on the closer relations between Washington and Havana have yet to be answered, including: Will the trade embargo, which has crippled Cuba’s economy, be lifted, and if so, when? Will the Cuban government improve its human rights record and incorporate outsiders into the political spectrum? How much, and how fast, will the lives of ordinary Cubans, who earn $20 a month on average, improve?
But for now, the reopening of the embassy on the Malecón waterfront in Havana, previously used as an interests section — a limited diplomatic outpost — brought another reason for hope among many Cubans that the country is changing, albeit slowly.