Kerry opens US Embassy in Cuba, anti-Castro dissidents are barred from the ceremony
Today, Secretary of State John Kerry raised the American flag over the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, a historic moment for relations between the long estranged countries. Though this represents a major shift from the policies that kept Cuba disconnected from the US for decades, tensions still linger.
Anti-Castro dissidents, who have worked for years to overturn leader Fidel Castro's regime, were barred from attending the flag raising. Kerry will meet with them in a private meeting without press later today. This sparked outrage from US politicians like presidential candidate and Senator Marco Rubio, and New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Mendez, both of whom are the sons of Cuban immigrants.
"Cuba's dissidents have fought for decades for the very Democratic principles President Obama claims to be advancing through these concessions. Their exclusion from this event has ensured it will be little more than a propaganda rally for the Castro regime," Rubio said.
The US government responded that there was limited space at the flag raising, and called the ceremony a "government-to-government moment".
Facts about US/Cuba relations:
Though President Obama has lifted some of the travel restrictions between the US and Cuba, the larger embargo of trade remains in effect. That must be lifted by Congress, which is unlikely under Republican leadership.
American tourism on the island is still banned, but the US Treasury Department has been liberal with its issuing of travel permits, allowing cruise lines like Carnival and Princess to set up trips to the island.