US, Cuba to Eye 'Full Normalization' of Relations

美古一致同意向“邦交全面正常化”迈进
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the flag-raising ceremony at the newly re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on August 14, 2015.

VOA News Pamela Dockins,August 15, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that a new U.S.-Cuban committee would begin talks next month on the "full normalization" of bilateral ties, building on historic ceremony earlier in the day in which the American flag was raised above the U.S. Embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 54 years.

At a joint news conference in Havana with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Kerry said the path toward fully normal relations would depend in part on the lifting of the trade embargo with Cuba that the United States imposed more than 50 years ago. President Barack Obama supports that move, but faces opposition from many conservatives in Congress.

Kerry also played down any concerns about whether the next U.S. president, whoever is elected in November 2016, might roll back or reverse the Obama administration's policy of engaging Cuba.

Speaking about the new U.S.-Cuban committee, Kerry said it would begin discussing issues of mutual concern, including human rights, in September. He added later that the first meeting would take place on Sept. 10 and 11 in Havana.

Speaking about the new U.S.-Cuban committee, Kerry said it would begin discussing issues of mutual concern, including human rights, in September.

He said he believed the Communist island "would be best served by a genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas, and practice their faith; where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully; where institutions are answerable to those they serve; and where civil society is independent and allowed to flourish."

Rodriguez said the two countries will continue to have profound differences on human rights and certain other issues. He defended Cuba's human rights record, which has been repeatedly criticized by independent rights groups, and contrasted it with a wave of controversial police shootings in the United States.

"Cuba isn't the place where there's racial discrimination, police brutality or deaths resulting from those problems," he said.

He also jabbed at the U.S. policy of detaining Islamist extemists at its Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba. "The territory where torture occurs and people are held in legal limbo isn't under Cuban jurisdiction."

Rodriguez laid out conditions that he said were “essential” to fully normalize ties. “The total lifting o the blockage – or the embargo as you say – as well as the return of the territory occupied illegally by the Guantanamo Naval Base and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages.”

Flag raised

Earlier Friday, Kerry saluted the American flag as it was raised again in Havana during a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy.

"This is truly a memorable occasion," Kerry said, "a day for pushing aside old barriers and exploring new possibilities."

Despite the recent diplomatic moves, Kerry said it would be "unrealistic to expect normalizing relations to have a transformative impact" on the Cuban government in the short term.

"Responsibility for the nature and quality of governance — and accountability for it — rests, as it should, not with any outside entity, but solely with the citizens of this country," Kerry said. "But the leaders in Havana — and the Cuban people — should also know that the United States will remain a champion of democratic principles and reforms."

He said the U.S. would continue to urge the Cuban government "to fulfill its obligations under U.N. and Inter-American human rights covenants — obligations shared by the United States and every other country in the Americas."

Ceremony details

Noting that he is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, Kerry said he "felt very much at home" in the Havana embassy. He addressed an audience of officials from both governments and a large crowd of onlookers on a sun-drenched day in the Cuban capital.

The crowd stood as both countries' anthems were played during the ceremony.

Kerry stood beside the flag during the ceremony in an embassy courtyard overlooking the Caribbean seaside. He paid tribute to last year's decision by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to restore the diplomatic ties severed at the height of the Cold War.

"President Obama and President Castro made a courageous decision to stop being prisoners of history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow," Kerry said.

Kerry was accompanied in Havana by some members of Congress and three elderly U.S. Marines — Larry Morris, Mike East, and Jim Tracey, now retired — who lowered the flag for the last time in Havana in January 1961.

"Larry, Mike and Jim had done their jobs, but they also made a bold promise — that one day they would return to Havana and raise the flag again," Kerry said. "At the time, no one could have guessed how distant that day would be."
 
Former President Dwight Eisenhower closed the U.S. Embassy during his last weeks in office before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as his successor in 1961.

Dissidents not invited

A senior U.S. official said Cuban dissidents were not part of the morning flag-raising ceremony at the embassy, because "it is principally a government-to-government event signifying this new relationship" between Havana and Washington.

Members of Cuban civil society, including political, human rights and media activists, have been invited to a second, larger ceremony later in the day at the residence of the chief of the U.S. mission in Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Obama has not yet appointed an ambassador to Cuba.

'A fairy tale'

A Cuban-American human rights advocate based in Washington said the U.S. move to normalize relations with Cuba might be a setback for Cuban dissidents.

“It is a fairy tale to assume that just because the president [Obama] makes concessions to Raul Castro, then Raul Castro will behave and stop abusing the people of Cuba,” said Frank Calzon, head of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Citing the Cuban government’s continued arrests of anti-government protesters and dissidents, he said the Castro government has been “emboldened” because it has not been pressured by the U.S. to improve human rights.

In a letter to the secretary of state this week, Reporters Without Borders noted that Cuba ranks 169th out of 180 nations on its 2015 press freedom index.

But Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Democrat, told VOA that he believes it will be easier to address the concerns of dissidents now that the U.S has diplomatic representation in Cuba. 

"I think we have better days ahead for civil society in Cuba," he said. "I think there is going to be increased political space and, you know, better days are ahead."

U.S. lawmakers' reaction

Some U.S. lawmakers and prominent politicians have questioned the Obama administration’s decision to move forward with engagement, in the wake of human rights concerns.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, strongly criticized the current U.S policy on Cuba.

Another Republican candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, also criticized the move.

“We [the U.S.] are so hungry for this deal that we are willing to overlook a hundred peaceful dissidents arrested just a few hours before the opening of our embassy,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, a Cuban-American.

“It is a cruel insult to the freedom-loving people of Cuba, and it is a dangerous situation for U.S. national security,” Ros-Lehtinen said in Miami.

But other lawmakers have offered support, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who expressed hope for a more productive relationship between the two nations.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, praised the Obama administration's Cuba policy.

Increased travel to Cuba

The embassy reopening will allow more Americans to travel to Cuba and give Cuban residents increased access to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, but most people on the island may not see much of an immediate difference in their day-to-day lives.

“In the immediate short term, it won’t benefit the ordinary Cuban[s] very much, except to give them some hope,” said Philip Brenner, an international relations professor at American University in Washington who has traveled to Cuba more than 30 times.

Brenner said Congress would need to lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba for significant changes to take place.

"We are all aware that, notwithstanding President Obama’s new policy, the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place and can only be lifted by  congressional action — a step we strongly favor," Kerry said Friday.

“Lifting the embargo would make the greatest change in the shortest time. I don’t agree with their [the Cuban government's] suppression of dissidents. I don’t agree with their censorship, and I have told them that.  If we lift the embargo, they no longer can blame everything on us, and I think change will come far more rapidly," U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy told VOA.

Sam Verma contributed to this report

美古一致同意向“邦交全面正常化”迈进

美国之音多金斯,2015年8月15日

国务卿克里说,一个新的美国-古巴委员会将于下月就双边关系全面正常化展开讨论。该讨论将基于周五举行的历史性仪式。在这个仪式上,美国国旗54多年来第一次在哈瓦那美国大使馆升起。

克里在哈瓦那与古巴外长罗德里格斯召开的联合新闻发布会上说,解除50多年前美国加诸古巴的贸易禁运和其他因素将是两国关系全面正常化的基础。奥巴马总统支持这一举动,但他面临着国会不少保守派人士的反对。

克里还表示,不需要过分担忧下届美国总统会收回奥巴马政府对待古巴的政策。

谈及新的美古委员会,克里说它将在九月份开始讨论双方共同关心的问题,包括人权。

罗德里格斯说,两国将持续在人权问题上有所分歧。他为古巴的人权纪录进行辩解,而古巴人权纪录一直饱受独立人权组织、活动人士和美国等国政府的批评。

旗帜升起

周五早些时候,美国国旗重新在哈瓦那美国大使馆升起,国务卿克里向旗帜致敬。

他说:“这是一个值得铭记的时刻,今天我们打破了旧的壁垒,探索新的机遇。”

克里说,他相信,真正的民主将能更好地服务于共产党执政的这个岛国,这样的民主就是,人们自由地选择领导人,表达看法,实践信仰;更加全面地实现经济与社会公正;各机构对他们所服务的人担起责任;有一个独立的公民社会并允许其繁荣发展。

尽管两国最近有这些外交互动,克里说,期望关系正常化在短期内对古巴政府产生转变性的影响,是不切实际的。

他说:“对治理内涵与质量负责和担责,不应取决于任何的外部力量,而应取决于这个国家的公民。但是哈瓦那领导人,以及古巴人民,也应该知道,美国将继续是民主原则和改革的支持者。”

他说,美国将继续敦促古巴政府履行联合国和美洲人权公约框架下的义务,这些义务是美国和美洲其他国家所共同支持的。

升旗仪式细节

克里指出,他是1945年以来第一位访问古巴的美国国务卿。他表示,他在哈瓦那大使馆感觉非常自在。他在阳光明媚的古巴首都向两国政府官员和一大群围观民众发表了讲话。

两国国歌奏响的时候,人群起立。

升旗仪式在俯瞰加勒比海海滨的大使馆广场举行。克里在仪式期间站在美国国旗旁。他赞扬奥巴马总统和古巴总统劳尔·卡斯特罗在去年做出的恢复邦交的决定。美国两国在冷战高峰时期断交。

克里说:“奥巴马总统和卡斯特罗总统做出了一个有勇气的决定,不再被历史所禁锢,而是要开拓今天和未来的机会。”

陪同克里一起前往哈瓦那的有一些国会议员,还有三名退役了的美国海军陆战队老兵:拉里·莫里斯、迈克·伊斯特、吉姆·特雷西。1961年1月,正是他们在哈瓦那最后降下了美国国旗。

“拉里、迈克、吉姆做了他们应做的事,但他们也做出了一个大胆的承诺——他们有一天会回到哈瓦那,重新升起旗帜。那时候,没有人会猜得到,那一天要等多久。”
 
1961年,前总统艾森豪威尔在其总统任期的最后几周关闭了美国驻古巴大使馆。不久之后,肯尼迪总统宣誓就任。

异议人士未受邀

美国一位高级官员说,古巴异议人士没有参加早上在使馆举行的升旗仪式,因为这主要是象征哈瓦那与华盛顿之间新关系的政府间活动。

古巴民间团体成员,包括政治、人权和媒体活动人士,受邀参加稍后在美国驻古巴使团团长杰弗里·德劳伦蒂斯官邸举办的另一个更为大型的仪式。奥巴马总统还没有任命驻古巴大使。

一个总部在华盛顿的古巴裔美国人人权行动组织说,美国与古巴邦交正常化或令古巴异议人士受挫。

自由古巴中心(Center for a Free Cuba)负责人弗兰克·卡尔松说:“如果认为(奥巴马)总统向劳尔·卡斯特罗做了让步,劳尔·卡斯特罗就会有所收敛,不再虐待古巴人民了,这是异想天开。”他指出,古巴政府仍在逮捕反政府抗议人士和异议人士。他说,由于没有受到美国要求改善人权的压力,卡斯特罗政府反而变得大胆。

来自亚利桑那州的民主党国会参议员杰夫·弗雷克对美国之音说,他认为,既然美国与古巴有外交关系了,异议人士的那些担忧将更容易得到解决。他说:“我认为,对于古巴的公民社会来说,好日子还在前面。我认为将会有更多的政治空间,好日子在前面。”

“记者无国界”组织在本周递交给国务院的一封信中指出,在2015年新闻自由指数中,古巴位列180个国家中的第169位。

反应

美国一些国会议员和知名政治人士也质疑奥巴马政府推进与古巴联系的决定。

来自佛罗里达州的国会参议员、共和党总统参选人马克·鲁比奥强烈谴责美国目前的古巴政策。他在推特上说:“卡斯特罗政权采取压制性手段,而且坚定不移地反对美国利益,奥巴马总统却对其进行奖励。我将在我权限范围内,尽我所能,支持古巴的民主运动。

另一名共和党总统参选人,前佛罗里达州州长杰布·布什也在推特上写道:“与卡斯特罗政权妥协是以所有古巴人应得的自由与民主为代价的。”

美国国会古巴裔女议员伊利安娜·罗斯-雷提那说:“美国如此急于达成这个协议,而宁可忽视,就在使馆开馆前几个小时,有一百名和平异议人士被捕。”

其他一些议员对奥巴马政府的政策表示支持,其中包括美国众议院民主党领导人南希·佩洛西。她在推特上说:“在古巴重开大使馆和升旗代表历史性的进步。”她希望两国关系硕果累累。

此外,来自佛蒙特州的参议员、民主党总统参选人本尼·桑德斯对奥巴马政府的古巴政策表示赞赏。