Cuban officials have been busy documenting the physical changes at the nearly-century-old Washington mansion that houses the embassy, including the removal of the old plaque:
On Monday, the Cuban flag was raised over the building in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood during a ceremony led by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Lawmakers, including Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), were on hand to celebrate and document the event:
The ceremony took place after diplomatic ties were officially restored at midnight between the two countries. As the Post’s Karen DeYoung and Brian Murphy report, the events follow President Obama’s “stunning declaration in December of America’s intent to reverse its isolation and embargo policies against Cuba, whose pro-American regime fell before Obama was even born”:
The move followed secret talks between the countries that led to Cuba’s release of an American government contractor, Alan Gross, and freedom for the remaining members of an alleged Cuban spy ring held in the United States.
Many points of friction still remain. Trade embargoes and travel limitations by the United States must clear Congress, where some Republicans strongly oppose the rapprochement with Havana. Cuban leaders, meanwhile, face potentially difficult decisions on how far and fast to open to U.S. businesses and American culture.
Some of that friction was evident Monday morning, DeYoung and Murphy write:
[O]pposing groups gathered near the newly restored Cuban Embassy during the flag raising — carried out by three Cuban soldiers as the nation’s national anthem played. Some applauded the move as long overdue and a sign of progress by both countries. Others held up placards complaining that the diplomatic thaw will not improve Cuba’s human rights record, which critics say includes continued repression and imprisonment of dissidents.
A group including Cuban exiles chanted: “Cuba without Castro.” They were shouted down by rivals yelling: “Viva Cuba” and “Viva Fidel.”
Of course, several prominent Republican politicians declared themselves firmly on one side of the debate: