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cuban thaw

At least one of Canada’s diplomats stationed in Cuba was treated for hearing loss and headaches, the country’s foreign ministry says.

The announcement comes a day after the US said its diplomats in Havana were experiencing strange physical symptoms.

Reports suggest the diplomats could have been targeted by a covert sonic device that causes hearing loss.

Cuba denies the allegation, but the US has removed two Cuban diplomats from Washington DC in retaliation.

Cuba’s foreign ministry responded: “Cuba has never, nor would ever, allow the Cuban territory to be used for any kind of action against accredited diplomats or their families.”

Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry, says the government is working with US and Cuban officials to find out what happened.

The Associated Press reported that a US investigation determined that the US diplomats’ hearing loss could have been linked to sonic devices which emit inaudible sound waves that can cause deafness.

Image source Wikimedia

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US officials, speaking to the agency anonymously, said investigations had determined devices had been deployed either inside or outside diplomats’ homes.

Investigators are also considering the possibility that a third country, such as Russia, was behind the incidents, officials familiar with the inquiry told AP.

According to US officials, about five diplomats, including some spouses, had been affected, but no children were involved.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauer said staff began complaining of the strange symptoms late last year.

While they were not life-threatening, she revealed that a number of people had been brought home to the US as a result.

The US and Cuba only re-established ties in 2015, following 50 years of hostilities between the two countries.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the alleged incidents were just the latest examples of harassment toward US diplomats in Cuba.

“Personal harm to US officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates international norms,” the senator said.

If true, the use of sonic devices to cause harm to diplomats would be unprecedented.


Two Cuban diplomats have been expelled by Washington after US embassy staff in Havana suffered mysterious physical symptoms, the US state department announced.

It was not immediately clear what had happened, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there were no “definitive answers about the source or cause”.

One government official quoted by Reuters said that some staff had suffered hearing loss.

Cuba’s foreign ministry announced it was investigating the allegations.

Cuba called the expulsion of its staff unjustified but said it was willing to co-operate with Washington to clarify what had happened.

The ministry said: “Cuba has never, nor would ever, allow the Cuban territory to be used for any kind of action against accredited diplomats or their families.”

Image source Wikipedia

Raul Castro Criticizes Donald Trump’s Rollback on Cuba

Barack Obama Ends Visa-Free Residency Policy for Cuban Immigrants

Jeffrey DeLaurentis Named First US Ambassador to Cuba in 55 Years

It was suggested the hearing loss could have been caused by some kind of sonic device placed outside the diplomats’ homes, emitting inaudible sound waves that can cause deafness.

Heather Nauert said staff began complaining of the strange symptoms late last year.

While they were not life-threatening, she revealed that a number of people had been brought home to the US as a result.

Heather Nauert said the government was taking it “very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way”.

It is understood that the two expelled Cuban diplomats left Washington DC in May..

The US and Cuba only re-established ties in 2015, following 50 years of hostilities between the two countries.


Cuban President Raul Castro has spoken publicly for the first time against President Donald Trump’s rollback of a thaw between the two countries a month ago.

Raul Castro said “attempts to destroy the revolution” would fail.

President Trump has tightened restrictions on US travel to and business with Cuba.

However, the US embassy in Havana, re-opened by former President Barack Obama, is still operating.

Fidel Castro Death: Donald Trump Calls Cuban Leader “Brutal Dictator”

President Castro was speaking in front of Cuba’s national assembly. It was his first public comment on the policy changes President Trump announced a month ago.

State-run Cuban media quoted President Castro as saying that President Trump was using “old and hostile rhetoric” and had returned to “confrontation that roundly failed over 55 years”.

The Cuban president said: “We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba, which can be proud of much in this area and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone.”

Barack Obama and Raul Castro Hold Historic Joint News Conference

Donald Trump anchored his policy rollback in human rights concerns raised by political opponents of Cuba’s communist government, many of whom have fled to Miami where the president announced the changes on June 16.

President Castro continued: “Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live side by side, respecting their differences. But no one should expect that for this, one should have to make concessions inherent to one’s sovereignty and independence.”

Raul Castro will step down as president in seven months, but will remain the head of the country’s Communist Party.


In his final days in office, President Barack Obama has decided to end a longstanding policy that grants residency to Cubans who arrive in the US without visas.

According to the 20-year-old policy, Cuban immigrants who reach US soil to become legal permanent residents after a year.

In exchange, Havana has agreed to start accepting Cubans who are turned away or deported from the United States.

Many Cubans in the US say Washington is rewarding a regime which has failed to address human rights concerns.

However President Barack Obama says he is trying to continue the thawing of relations with Cuba: “With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.”

Image source Wikimedia

In a statement on state TV, the Cuban government praised the move as “an important step in advancing relations” between the US and Cuba.

It is unclear where relations between the two countries will go now.

Barack Obama’s successor, President-elect Donald Trump, has taken a much tougher stance and could reverse the change.

Until now, the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy has applied solely to Cubans, tens of thousands of whom reached US soil in 2016, including by land.

Thousands of other Cubans are intercepted at sea every year by the US coast guard before they can get a dry foot on land.

Immigrants from other countries who come to the US without a visa could be arrested and deported.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said: “I believe changing this outdated policy – in order to be fair to all and also to prevent people from abusing the system – is the right thing to do.”

However, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, a Cuban exile, blasted President Obama for giving Raul Castro a parting gift: “This is just a going-away present from Obama to Raul Castro.”

Tomas Regalado does not believe ending the policy will slow the flow of Cubans coming to the US.

Google and Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company ETECSA have signed a deal that will enable faster access to content from the tech giant.

Under the deal, Google will install servers in Cuba to improve connectivity speeds to its services, including Gmail and YouTube.

ETECSA and Google have reached their agreement in the final weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency.

It is not clear whether Donald Trump will change US policies towards Cuba.

A high-speed fibre-optic cable connecting Cuba to the global internet appears to have finally been activated

Barack Obama restored relations with Cuba earlier this year, after more than five decades of hostility between the two former Cold War rivals.

President-elect Donald Trump has made arguments both for and against improved ties with Cuba since being elected last month.

Even though most Cubans are likely to see the deal with Google as a step forward, it will do little to change the overall online accessibility on the communist island.

Cuba still has one of the lowest online connectivity rates in the world.

The majority of the population is not allowed access to the internet from home and must rely, instead, on expensive Wi-Fi points to get online.

Google said in a statement: “This deal allows Etecsa to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level.”

The agreement was signed in Havana by Alphabet Inc chairman Eric Schmidt and ETECSA president Mayra Arevich Marin.

Cuban business owners have appealed to Donald Trump not to reverse a recent thaw in bilateral relations.

In a letter, more than one hundred business owners said additional measures to boost travel, trade and investment would benefit both nations.

The president-elect, who takes office on January 20, has said he will end a deal under which ties were restored in 2015 unless Havana offers a “better deal”.

Cuba hopes to sign 12 agreements with the United States before Donald Trump’s inauguration.

On December 7, officials from both governments held talks in Havana to discuss how this could be achieved during President Barack Obama’s remaining weeks in office.

Cuban Foreign Ministry’s Director of US Affairs Josefina Vidal said: “At the moment we are negotiating 12 more [agreements] with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them.”

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Josefina Vidal said that a number of agreements had already been signed with Washington since 2015.

She also expressed hopes that the bilateral relations would continue improving but “within the respect of the existing differences and without having to make any kind of concession to the principles in which Cuba firmly believes”.

Barack Obama has worked to improve relations with Cuba, culminating in his historic visit to Havana in March 2016.

In November, Donald Trump threatened in a tweet to put an end to the detente following the death of Fidel Castro.

He said that if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal”.

Donald Trump’s camp accuses the Obama administration of giving too much away to Cuba without receiving enough in return.

Under President Barack Obama, diplomatic ties were restored in July 2015 after being severed in 1961.

Some trade restrictions have been eased and the White House has been lobbying the US Congress to terminate the Cuban economic embargo that has been in place for decades.


Jeffrey DeLaurentis has been appointed as the first US ambassador to Cuba in 55 years as relations between the countries thaw.

According to President Barack Obama, it was a “step towards a more normal and productive relationship”.

However, the president may face a battle in Congress where some Republicans are opposed to his dealings with Cuba.

Image source Getty Images

Image source Getty Images

Jeffrey DeLaurentis had been working at the new US embassy in Havana, which opened in July 2015.

Barack Obama said there was “no better-qualified public servant”.

President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, have begun to reignite the diplomatic relations that were broken off in 1961 after Cuba’s communist revolution.

Restrictions on flights have been lifted but the US embargo on Cuba remains in place.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American, has previously said the improved relations will go “a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come”.


President Barack Obama will visit Cuba in the coming weeks as part of a broader trip to Latin America, reports say.

Barack Obama will be only the second sitting US president in history to travel to Cuba, after Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

Republicans have criticized the visit, saying it should not take place while the Castro family is in power.

Washington and Havana restored diplomatic ties in July 2015 and the US relaxed travel and trade restrictions after a 54-year freeze.

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sons of Cuban migrants, said the visit was a mistake.

Asked whether he would go, Marco Rubio said: “Not if it’s not a free Cuba.”Barack Obama to visit Cuba

Ted Cruz said Barack Obama would be acting “as an apologist”.

In December, Barack Obama told Yahoo News he wanted to meet political dissidents in Cuba to help “nudge the Cuban government in a new direction”.

Cuba’s government responded by saying Barack Obama was welcome to visit but should not meddle in the country’s internal affairs.

Barack Obama’s visit could coincide with the signing of a peace deal in Havana between the Colombian government and rebels from the Farc group to end that country’s civil war, due to take place by March 23.

The deal was encouraged by the Cuban government.

On February 16, US and Cuban officials signed a deal to resume commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades.

However, the Republican majority in the Congress has blocked Barack Obama’s call to end the longstanding trade embargo.

The embargo limits trade and also bans US tourists from visiting Cuba.

The US and Cuba have agreed to restore regular commercial flights, in a deal that could jumpstart economic relations between the two countries.

The agreement paves the way for thousands of visitors to Cuba on a daily basis.

The deal was announced on December 17, exactly one year since President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, announced a historic detente.

It is not known when the first Cuba-bound flights will take off.

The pact – the most significant business development since the presidents’ announcement one year ago – allows US airlines to negotiate with the Cuban government over commercial flight routes and schedules.

It could mean more than a dozen flights arriving into Cuba from the United States a day, officials said.

The understanding is a key development as Cuba and the US continue to negotiate over a number of issues which could ultimately see the US trade embargo lifted.

Photo AP

Photo AP

The news comes as travel between the United States and Cuba surged by over 70% in 2015, according to Reuters.

Thousands of Americans are already visiting Cuba and hotels and hostels are booked for months.

Those traveling have to do so using difficult-to-book charter flights or via third countries, and are forced to navigate an intricate web of laws in order for their travel to be legal.

The State Department reminded US citizens on December 17 that a ban on touristic travel to Cuba remains in place.

Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations on December 17, 2014, after more than 50 years of hostility between the Cold War foes.

One year out, President Barack Obama is marking the anniversary by calling on the US Congress to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, releasing a statement that says, in part: “Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.”

Since then, embassies have opened in Havana and Washington, a pilot postal program has been agreed, phone links established, environmental deals have been inked, human rights talks have started, as well as a number of other developments.

Yet much stands in the way of fully-restored relations, most notably the US-imposed trade embargo, which Republicans have strongly defended.

US and Cuba Agree to Restore Regular Commercial Flights

The United States and Cuba have reached an understanding on resuming regular commercial flights between the two countries, Cuban and American officials said on December 16.

It is unclear when the flights would start because negotiations between the Cuban government and the US airlines could take months.

The move is a significant step nearly a year after the US and Cuba began restoring diplomatic relations.

The US reopened its embassy in Havana in August after a 54-year absence.US and Cuba to resume regular flights

A State department spokesperson said the two countries “are making progress but still negotiating” on resuming flights.

The understanding is a key development as Cuba and the US continue to negotiate over a number of issues which could ultimately see the US trade embargo lifted.

The news comes as travel between the US and Cuba surged by an estimated 50% this year.

Thousands of Americans are already visiting Cuba and hotels and hostels are booked for months.

However, those traveling have to do so using difficult to book charter flights or via third countries.

A formal agreement could mean more than a dozen flights arriving into Cuba from the US a day, officials said.

The US and Cuba have agreed to restore a direct mail service, suspended 52 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

A pilot postal service will be launched shortly, but it is not clear when a full service will be implemented.

The move is part of the rapprochement process that was announced by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro on December 17, 2014.

The United States and Cuba have since restored diplomatic ties and reopened embassies.

The two countries began re-establishing postal links in 2013, before the change of policy was announced.Cuba and US direct mail service

Mail and parcels between Cuba and the US have been re-routed through a third country, usually Mexico or Canada.

In March, direct phone connections with the US were restored after more than 15 years.

Previously, phone calls also needed to go through a third country.

While delays in the mail services have caused frustration for decades, their use in the 21st Century is becoming limited.

Couriers carry mail and small packages between Miami and Havana on a regular basis.

As Cuba gradually opens up to the internet, new generations of Cubans are writing fewer letters than their parents and grandparents used to.

Despite remarkable improvement in relations in recent years, Cuba says that relations will not be fully normalized until the US pulls out of Guantanamo Bay and lifts an economic embargo imposed on the communist-run island.

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista.

Cuba established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

The following year, the US imposed a trade embargo covering nearly all exports to Cuba.

This was expanded by President John F. Kennedy into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions.

The embargo is estimated to have cost the Cuban economy more than $1.1 trillion and the US economy $1.2 billion a year.

President Barack Obama has also called for the embargo to be lifted, saying it had “failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people”.

However, the change needs to be approved by the Congress, which is controlled by the Republican opposition.


US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has arrived in Cuba for two days of talks focusing on the trade embargo.

Penny Pritzker will discuss recent measures approved by the US to mitigate the impact of the embargo.

Since the US and Cuba announced last year they were restoring relations, President Barack Obama has pushed for the restrictions to be scrapped.

However, Barack Obama faces opposition from the Republican majority in the Congress.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Penny Pritzker is the most senior American official to visit Cuba since Secretary of State John Kerry reopened the embassy in Havana in July.

Shortly after landing in Havana, Penny Pritzker visited the Special Enterprise Zone, an area developed near the Mariel port to encourage foreign investment.

On October 7, the secretary of commerce is due to meet the Cuban trade and foreign ministers for discussions on the embargo.

The US announced in recent weeks a number of measures to encourage trade even with the embargo still in place.

American companies will no longer be breaking US law for setting up premises in Cuba, the US authorities announced.

The Cuban government needs to lift some of its own bureaucratic and legal obstacles for the measures to work.

There may be some reluctance from the Cuban authorities to allow a faster pace of change while there are other issues pending, such as new civil aviation rules, ferry services between Florida and Cuba and greater internet access.

The first American economic sanctions against Cuba were imposed in 1960.


Barack Obama and Raul Castro met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 29.

It was the second time Barack Obama and the Cuban president met in person this year after decades of estrangement between the two countries.

They shook hands before beginning private talks.

On September 28, Raul Castro called for an end to US economic sanctions on Cuba.

President Barack Obama had earlier expressed confidence that Congress would lift the embargo.Raul Castro and Barack Obama in New York

Raul Castro told the UN that normal relations with the United States would only be possible if the US abolished its trade embargo.

The embargo has been in place since 1960 and remains a contentious issue in relations between Cuba and the US.

In his speech to the UN, President Barack Obama said he was confident Congress would “inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore”.

On October 27 the UNGA is again scheduled to discuss a resolution condemning the embargo and calling for its abolition.

It is the 24th time the UNGA will vote on the issue, which generally is only opposed by the United States and Israel.

Speculation is already rife about how the US will vote this year after its own president dismissed the embargo as counterproductive and behind the times.

The resolutions are unenforceable, but a US abstention on a resolution critical of US behavior would be unprecedented.

The Republican-controlled US Congress has so far refused to lift the embargo.

Cuban-American Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio warned that an abstention would be “putting international popularity ahead of the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States”.

US officials said Raul Castro’s presence at the UN, the first time the Cuban leader spoke there, was a signal “that we’re in a new era”.

In his speech, Raul Castro said the normalization of relations would be “a long and complex process”.


President Raul Castro has called for the US to lift the trade embargo on Cuba in order to normalize the relations between the two countries.

He told the UN that was also necessary for the US to return the military base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay and end anti-communist broadcasts to the island.

President Barack Obama also called for the trade embargo to be lifted.

He said that he was confident that the US Congress would do so soon.

The two leaders are expected to meet on September 29 in New York.Raul Castro UN General Assembly 2015

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 28, President Barack Obama said he thought the Republican-held Congress would inevitably lift “an embargo that should not be in place anymore” despite its reservations over the administration’s support for it.

He said that while the Cuba policy of the US had “failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people”, human rights remained a concern in relations with Havana.

Barack Obama was applauded by delegates in the 193-nation UN General Assembly.

The embargo has been in place since 1960 and remains a contentious issue in relations between Cuba and the US.

President Raul Castro for his part said that now that diplomatic ties were back in place, the overall normalization of relations “will only be achieved with the end of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba”.

It was Raul Castro’s first address to the UN since succeeding his brother Fidel in 2006. Like Barack Obama, he received sustained applause.

The White House announced on September 27 that President Barack Obama would hold talks with his Cuban counterpart on September 29 on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

It will be their second meeting following on from their first historic get-together in Panama in April.

The UN General Assembly is set to discuss a new draft resolution criticizing the US embargo at a meeting next month.

The assembly has voted every year since 1982 in support of a resolution calling on the US to end the embargo.


In his first speech after his arrival in Cuba, Pope Francis has called for the Church in the communist island to have “the freedom and the means” to pursue its mission.

Pope Francis also hailed improving ties between the US and Cuba as “an example of reconciliation for the whole world”.

The pontiff was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro after landing in the capital, Havana.

He is due to celebrate Mass on September 20 in Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Pope Francis will spend four days in Cuba before flying to the US.

Following his arrival on Cuba on September 19, thousands lined the route of the Pope’s motorcade to the home of the Vatican’s ambassador to Cuba.

Pope Francis – the first pontiff to hail from Latin America – is credited with helping the recent thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US.

President Raul Castro has thanked Pope Francis for his contribution.

Speaking at the airport alongside Raul Castro, Pope Francis urged further support for Cuba’s Catholics “so that the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed to bring the proclamation of the kingdom to the existential peripheries of society”.

The Pope also called on Cuba and the US to “persevere on the path” of detente.

On September 17, the Vatican said it hoped the Pope’s visit would help bring an end to the 53-year-old US embargo and lead to more freedom and human rights in Cuba.

The following day, the US announced eased restrictions on business and travel with Cuba, the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations.

Pope Francis’s trip will later take him to the US, which he will also be visiting for the first time since his election to the papacy.


The US has decided to ease restrictions on business and travel with Cuba ahead of Pope Francis visit to the communist island.

This is the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations with Cuba.

The rules, which go into effect on September 21, relate to travel, telecom, internet-based services, business operations, banking and remittances.

US businesses will now be allowed to open up locations in Cuba.

Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama discussed the move in a phone conversation on September 18.US lifts Cuba embargo 2015

The changes come as the US and Cuba normalize relations after 53 years.

“A stronger, more open US-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike,” said US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement.

“By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba.”

Authorized travelers will be permitted to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba, senior administration officials said on September 18.

Close relatives will now be allowed to accompany authorized travelers going to Cuba for educational, journalistic, humanitarian or religious activities or research.

Officials said travel to Cuba for tourist activity is still prohibited by statute.

Companies will also be able to import Cuban mobile applications to the US and hire Cuban nationals to work on them.

Barack Obama thinks the best way to strengthen the Cuban people is through contact, officials said.

In July, Cuba and the United States formally re-established relations, and in January the Obama administration announced initial changes to the Cuba sanctions program.

Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, and before Cuban President Raul Castro is set to address the United Nations, Cuba announced on September 18 the appointment of a US ambassador, the first since 1961.

Veteran diplomat Jose Cabanas will be Cuba’s ambassador to the US.


Cuba has announced the appointment of Jose Cabanas as the new ambassador to the US – the first since 1961 – as part of the ongoing thaw in relations between the two countries.

Jose Ramon Cabanas is a veteran diplomat who has run Cuba’s “interests section” in Washington since 2012.

The diplomat was received at the White House with 15 other new diplomats from other countries.

Washington has yet to make an announcement about who will serve as its new ambassador in Cuba.

The announcement comes ahead of a visit to Cuba by Pope Francis and days before Cuban President Raul Castro goes to New York to address the United Nations.Jose Cabanas first Cuban ambassador to US

Raul Castro’s visit will mark the first time a president of Cuba has publically set foot on American soil since 1995 when President Fidel Castro, his older brother, spoke before the UN.

In July 2015, Cuba and the US formally re-established their relations.

The process began publically when Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced simultaneously that they planned to set a new course on US-Cuba relations.

Soon after, the US traded three Cubans they had convicted on spying charges for Alan Gross, an American aid worker accused of espionage by a Cuban court.

Since then US and Cuban delegations have met several times to discuss a range of issues.

Jose Cabanas is a career diplomat trained in Havana. He served as vice minister of foreign relations and has occupied various high level posts in several countries.


The US flag has been raised over the reopened embassy in Cuba after more than 54 years since it was closed.

The reopening of the US embassy in Havana is a symbolic step signaling the warming of ties between both countries.

John Kerry, who presided over the ceremony in Havana, is the first US Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years.

The US flag was presented by the same US marines who brought it down in 1961.

Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington in July.

However, issues remain, with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro blasting the US for not lifting its trade embargo.

In an open letter on August 13, Fidel Castro said the US owed Cuba millions of dollars because of its 53-year-long embargo. The letter makes no mention of today’s reopening of the US embassy.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

John Kerry described the hoisting of the flag as a “historic moment” speaking during the ceremony on August 14.

He also warned that the US would not stop pressing for political change in Cuba.

“The people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders,” John Kerry told a crowd of hundreds gathered outside the embassy building.

In the past, John Kerry conceded, US policies have not led to democracy.

“Cuba’s future is for Cubans to shape,” he added.

Three retired marines who lowered the American flag for the last time on January 4, 1961, handed it over to marines to raise it once again in Havana as the American national anthem played.

Cuban leader Raul Castro and President Barack Obama agreed to restore ties in December 2014.

While trade and travel restrictions have been relaxed, the Republican-led US Congress has not lifted the trade embargo the US imposed on the communist-run island in 1960.

Cuba says the embargo – which it calls a blockade – is hugely damaging to its economy.

It says relations will be fully restored only once it is lifted.

Fidel Castro’s open letter was published in state newspaper Granma to mark his 89th birthday.


Fidel Castro has published an open letter to Cubans in which he makes no mention of the historic reopening of the US embassy in Havana.

The former Cuban leader instead criticizes American foreign and economic policies since World War Two and accuses the US of owing Cuba millions of dollars.

The letter was published to mark Fidel Castro’s 89th birthday.

The US embassy will be reopened in Havana on August 14, with Secretary of State John Kerry attending.

Fidel Castro said the US owed Cuba money because of the trade embargo the US imposed on the communist-run island in 1960.

Cuba says the embargo – which it calls a blockade – is hugely damaging to its economy.

The letter says relations will only be fully restored once it is lifted.Fidel Castro criticizes US before embassy reopening

Three marines who lowered the American flag for the last time on January 4, 1961, will raise it again during Friday’s ceremony in Havana.

They are now retired and in their late 70s.

“I’m gonna love seeing that flag go back up,” said former marine Jim Tracy, 78, on a State Department video.

Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington last month.

In his birthday letter published in state newspaper Granma, Fidel Castro says Cuba is committed to “good will and peace in our hemisphere” but adds: “We will never stop fighting for the peace and welfare of all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin and which country they come from.”

Fidel Castro led his country from the Cuban Revolution, in 1959, until 2006, when he stood down because of undisclosed health problems.

He passed on power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, who embarked on a number of economic reforms.

After Raul Castro and President Barack Obama announced in December that Cuba and the US had agreed to restore diplomatic relations, it took Fidel Castro more than a month to express lukewarm approval for the historic reconciliation.

Cuba and the US have opened full embassies in Havana and Washington.

Just after midnight local time, the diplomatic missions of each country became full embassies.

The two countries formally restored diplomatic relations after an agreement struck in December 2014 putting aside decades of hostility came into force.

Secretary of State John Kerry is due to hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez later in the day in Washington.US embassy in Cuba reopens in 2015

Despite the historic shift, Cuba and the US admit to lingering difficulties.

There were still “issues that we don’t see eye to eye on”, a US state department spokesman said.

Restrictions on Americans wanting to travel to Cuba remain in place, as does the wider US trade embargo banning most American companies from doing business in Cuba.

Cuba says the embargo – which it calls a blockade – is hugely damaging to its economy.

Cuban President Raul Castro has urged President Barack Obama to lift it, calling it the main stumbling block towards normalizations. But the US Congress would have to vote on the issue.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the move towards diplomatic ties in December 2014.


Fidel Castro has made a rare public appearance at a cheese meeting in Havana.

State television showed images of the former Cuban leader at a meeting with cheese experts near the capital, Havana.

Fidel Castro, 88, handed power to his younger brother Raul in 2006 after struggling to recover from illness.

His appearance comes days after Cuba and the US announced they were reopening embassies in each other’s capitals on July 20.Fidel Castro cheese meeting Havana

Fidel Castro is rarely seen in public, and secrecy about his health means his public appearances are scrutinized by the media.

The historic thaw between Cuba and the US was announced on December 17, in joint media conferences by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.

There was no immediate comment from Fidel Castro, and analysts said the rapprochement would not have happened if he was still in power.

Just over a month later, Fidel Castro broke his silence in a letter published on the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

“I don’t trust the policy of the United States… but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts,” the Cuban leader wrote.

Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke links and imposed a trade embargo on Cuba.

The United States and Cuba are to announce the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals, a senior US official has said.

The embassies opening is a major step in re-establishing diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba which were severed in 1961.

Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke links and imposed a trade embargo with Cuba.

The US and Cuba agreed to normalize relations at the end of 2014.

Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro held historic talks in April 2015.

Since 1977, the US and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called “interests sections” in each other’s capitals under the legal protection of Switzerland. However, they do not enjoy the same status as full embassies.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

US officials said President Barack Obama would make a formal announcement from the White House on July 1.

It is still not clear exactly what the date will be for opening the embassies, but it is likely to be in mid-July.

The US State Department must give Congress two weeks’ warning before the embassy can open.

It is the latest major milestone in a thawing process between the two countries’ relations, which started with secret negotiations and was announced last December.

In April, Barack Obama and Raul Castro met for the first formal talks between the two countries’ leaders in more than half a century.

A month later, the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Plans to resume ferry and air services between the US and Cuba were also announced.

Despite the new transport links, a Cuba travel ban is still in place for US citizens.

Cuba is also still subject to a US arms embargo which has been in place since 1962, though President Barack Obama has urged Congress to lift it.

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista. The Castro brothers established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

In December 2014, Barack Obama and Raul Castro made a surprise announcement saying they would seek to re-establish diplomatic ties, ending more than 50 years of ill-will.


The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted to keep restrictions on American citizens travelling to Cuba, despite a recent thaw in relations.

The chamber rejected proposals to allow regular scheduled flights to Cuba.

The House also said a rule should remain requiring US citizens to get a special license before going to Cuba.

It was voting on a transport funding bill which has provisions related to Cuba.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.US Cuba travel restrictions

New rules issued by the Obama administration in January were aimed at easing travel restrictions to Cuba and allowing scheduled flights for the first time.

Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said the White House was wrong to lift the restrictions.

Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American, said it would mean flights landing at an airport that was partially owned by US interests when it was seized by the Cuban government.

“What you are saying is, <<It’s OK to do business on property that was stolen from Americans>>,” said Mario Diaz-Balart.

The thaw in relations between the US and Cuba was announced at the end of 2014 in simultaneous televised speeches by President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.

President Barack Obama used his executive powers to ease the embargo that has existed for more than 50 years, defying hardline critics.

However, the issue is caught in a battle between Republicans who control Congress and the White House.


Francois Hollande has arrived in Havana to meet former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a historic trip to the Communist island.

The French president is using the one-day trip to Cuba to build business and diplomatic relations five months after a detente between Havana and Washington.

Fidel Castro and Francois Hollande’s meeting was due at 15:00 local time on May 11, away from TV cameras, said the Elysee Palace.

Francois Hollande is the first French president to visit Cuba since 1898.

Speaking at the University of Havana, Francois Hollande said France would do its utmost to ensure that “the measures which have so badly harmed Cuba’s development can finally be repealed”.Francois Hollande in Cuba

Francois Hollande was referring to the US trade embargo with Cuba, which remains in place, although relations between the US and Cuba have improved in recent months.

He was due to meet his current Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro’s brother and successor Raul, later on Monday evening.

The visit is the first trip by a Western head of state to the Communist island since the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the US was announced in December 2014.

Francois Hollande announced plans to double the number of scholarships to enable Cuban students to continue their studies in France, as part of attempts to increase academic and scientific co-operation between the two nations.

Earlier on Monday, Francois Hollande bestowed France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, on the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The Cuban Catholic Church has acted as a mediator between dissidents and the Communist government.

Unlike some other European countries, France has long maintained reasonably good relations with Cuba and wants to benefit from the new economic openness.

After landing at Havana airport, Francois Hollande said the visit was a moment of “great emotion”.

Before arriving, Francois Hollande told reporters that France sought to “be the first among European nations, and the first among Western nations, to be able to say to the Cubans that we will be at their side if they decide themselves to take needed steps toward opening up”.

A number of high-ranking US and European politicians have visited Cuba since December 17, when the US and Cuba announced they would move towards re-establishing diplomatic ties.

They include New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini and top diplomats from Japan and Russia.


Cuban President Raul Castro will meet Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican.

The Argentine Pope played a key role in a recent diplomatic rapprochement between the US and Cuba.

Raul Castro, who is stopping off as he returns from Russia’s WW2 Victory Day parade, wishes to thank Pope Francis for his help, Vatican radio says.

The Roman Catholic Church has maintained relations with Cuba since the 1959 revolution.Raul Castro and Pope Francis meeting

Pope Francis will visit Cuba on his way to the US in September.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to receive a Cuban leader when Fidel Castro travelled to the Vatican.

Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, was last in Rome in 1997 when he was defense minister. At the time he was preparing the historic visit of John Paul II to Havana the following year.

The Catholic Church has organized a series of secret diplomatic meetings to broker the US-Cuban rapprochement.

The talks directly involved Pope Francis. The US had imposed a trade embargo soon after Cuba’s revolution, which it began to lift at the end of 2014.

Pope Francis, 78, will be the third pontiff to travel to Cuba, following visits there by John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.