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Why I’m Going to Havana – John Kerry

Why I’m Going to Havana
John Kerry – U.S. Secretary of State
Posted: 08/14/2015 9:30 am EDT Updated: 08/14/2015 1:59 pm EDT

Fifty-four years ago, the United States broke diplomatic relations with
Cuba, and three young Marine guards volunteered for one final act of
duty: lowering their country’s flag before returning home. Today in
Havana, I will watch proudly as those same Marines — Larry Morris, Mike
East and Jim Tracy — help raise the flag over our newly re-opened U.S.
Embassy.

My visit to Havana, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 70 years,
comes nine months after President Obama announced a new approach to
relations with Cuba. It is an approach based on the ties that bind our
people, the interests shared by our governments, and the mutual respect
that should characterize relations between two proud nations — even
when our policies collide.

Since the President’s announcement last December, we have achieved
significant progress. Three weeks ago, the U.S. and Cuba reestablished
formal relations, and beginning today the Stars and Stripes will fly
over the Malecón for the first time in more than half a century. Our
diplomats in Havana are now able to do what they do around the world:
travel the country, talk to Cubans and represent the values and
interests of the United States. In addition, our diplomats will be able
to more effectively help Americans citizens in need.

In Cuba and throughout Latin America, we are seeing the diplomatic
benefits of reversing a policy that divided us from the Cuban people and
isolated us in the hemisphere and the world. Whether we are working to
prevent oil spills off the coast of Florida, interdict narcotics flows
in the Caribbean, or champion democratic values, an engaged America will
be a stronger and more influential America.

Just as crucial, American and Cuban citizens are benefiting from the
Administration’s policy changes. Visits from the U.S. to Cuba, which now
number in the hundreds of thousands per year, have increased 35 percent
in 2015. These Americans, many of them Cuban-Americans, are the best
ambassadors of our ideals. They carry to Cuba new perspectives, a
diversity of ideas and examples of political and economic liberty.

They also support self-employed Cubans, the fastest-growing sector of
Cuba’s economy, some half a million strong, who will be so important to
the country’s future. Americans rent rooms in Cubans’ homes, eat in
their paladares, purchase their art, ride in their vintage Chevys, help
grow their churches, and provide the remittances that are enabling a new
generation of Cubans to open small businesses and become economically
independent of the Cuban state.

American companies have long clamored to pursue commerce with Cuba, and
the major business and agriculture coalitions have been some of the
strongest supporters of our new policy. Already, companies such as
Airbnb are doing business on the island, with benefits flowing directly
to Cuban entrepreneurs. U.S. firms are exploring ways to expand
telecommunications and Internet links, and Cuba acknowledged the
tremendous hunger on the island for Internet connectivity by announcing
the creation of dozens of new Wi-Fi hot spots with lower prices.

After 50 years of stagnation, the sense of progress and potential is
real. We are under no illusions that Cuba will be transformed overnight,
and we are clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. Among these is Cuba’s
continued denial of universal human rights. Dissidents are still being
detained and beaten. In Cuba, as elsewhere, we must remain steadfast in
championing the rights of all citizens to speak freely, assemble
peacefully, and think differently. I will take this message to Havana.

Twenty years ago, I helped normalize relations with another erstwhile
adversary, Vietnam. Last week, I returned there to find a country that
is market-oriented, economically vibrant and friendly to the United
States. Its people are also freer — with greater access to information
and more autonomy over their lives — though they still live in a
one-party state with a long way to go on human rights.

Cuba will follow its own path based on its unique circumstances,
including its proximity to the United States and a diaspora community
that can play an important role in supporting its development. But
Cuba’s future is for the Cuban people to decide. Our commitment to a new
approach acknowledges that there are many issues on which we do not see
eye to eye. It is based on an honest reckoning with what hasn’t worked
— a history of intervention and a Cold War policy of isolation — and a
conviction that engagement is a more fertile path to advancing our
national interests and empowering Cubans who aspire to something better
for their families and their country.

We desire liberty and prosperity for Cubans, as we do for people
everywhere. We are convinced that Cubans will be most free to chart
their own future when the United States serves not as a ready excuse for
repression, but as a friend to the Cuban people — supporting their
aspirations for prosperity, facilitating their engagement with a world
of ideas and information, and exemplifying the power and possibility of
government by the people.

Source: Why I’m Going to Havana | John Kerry –
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johnkerry/why-im-going-to-havana_b_7983404.html

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