HAVANA: US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cuba on Friday to raise the US flag over the newly reopened embassy, sealing Washington´s historic rapprochement with Havana.
The Stars and Stripes have not flown over the glass-and-concrete building on the Havana waterfront since January 3, 1961, the day the United States severed ties with Cuba at the height of the Cold War.
And now US secretary of state has visited the island just across the Florida Straits since 1945.
“There will be hiccups along the way but it´s a start,” Kerry said of the nascent US-Cuban thaw, speaking to reporters traveling with him.
After touching down at Jose Marti International Airport, Kerry headed for the embassy, where he was due to preside over the flag-raising ceremony later Friday morning.
Accompanying him on the whirlwind one-day trip are three septuagenarian former Marines who lowered the flag for the last time 54 years ago.
The flag-raising ceremony will put a coda on the historic rapprochement announced on December 17 by US President Barack Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, which paved the way for the two countries to reopen their embassies on July 20.
Besides the key photo-op with the flag, Kerry will meet with Cuban officials, the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba and dissidents opposed to the communist regime.
He will not, however, meet with either Castro or his big brother Fidel, who led Cuba from its 1959 revolution until his retirement in 2006.