Kerry presides over flag-raising ceremony in Havana

Havana, Aug 14 (IANS) US Secretary of State John Kerry presided over a flag-raising ceremony here on Friday at the US Embassy in Cuba, a historic event that comes 54 years after the two countries severed full diplomatic relations amid the Cold War.

Three young Marines raised the flag after receiving it from the three military men – Larry Morris, Mike East and Jim Tracey, who had lowered it in 1961, reports Efe.

“This is a day for pushing aside old barriers and exploring new possibilities,” Kerry said in English in a speech before the flag was raised.

He then addressed those in attendance in Spanish, saying there is nothing to fear because both countries will experience numerous benefits by allowing greater contact among each other’s citizens more frequent visits and exchanges of ideas.

Kerry’s visit for the formal reopening of the embassy, which began operating on July 20 when diplomatic relations were officially restored, became the first US secretary of state to set foot on Cuban soil in 70 years.

Kerry was scheduled to spend just 10 hours in Havana, during which time he is to meet with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the most senior Catholic clergyman on the Communist-ruled island, and with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The flag-raising ceremony at the embassy, located on Havana’s waterfront Malecon boulevard, was the first of two scheduled for Friday.

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