HAVANA TIMES — US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Havana at nine in the morning and was welcomed at the Jose Marti airport by the vice-chief of protocol of Cuba’s foreign ministry, Lidia Margarita Gonzalez. Kerry will reopen the US embassy 54 years after Washington broke diplomatic, economic and commercial relations with the country, in addition to freezing Cuba’s funds at US banks and barring its citizens from traveling to the island.
The Secretary of State is accompanied by Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and the chief negotiator in the bilateral rapprochement between the two countries, Bruce Andrews, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Sarah Bloom Raskin, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, Mark Feierstein, Senior Director at the National Security Council, Jonathan Finer, Chief of Staff at the US Department of State, Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, David McKean, Director of Policy Planning, David Thorne, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Kurt Tidd, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In addition to presiding over the official ceremony surrounding the reopening of the embassy, Kerry will meet with Didier Burkhalter, Foreign Minister of Switzerland, the country that represented US interests in Cuba for decades. He will also meet with his counterpart, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has played an important role in negotiations, in representation of the Vatican.
Dissident groups appear to be the only ones who were not invited to the party on this historical occasion, but, as something of a consolation, Kerry plans on holding a private meeting with a small group of opposition members in the home of the US ambassador.
Some invitees to the meeting could well stand the Secretary of State up. The head of the Ladies in White has openly criticized him for yielding to Cuba’s pressures. “He hasn’t set down any conditions and we’re already seeing the results of this. No dissident has been invited to the inauguration of the embassy.”
The rapprochement with Cuba was set in motion by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ironically the wife of the president that transformed the Cuban embargo into legislation. Cheryl Mills, chief of Clinton’s team, and the then Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julissa Reynosso, met in secret with Cuban officials at Puerto Principe, Haiti, and in Santo Domingo, from 2010 to 2012. The report by the negotiations team suggested that Hillary Clinton should “continue negotiating with the Cubans on the release of Alan Gross but not allow his situation to block an advance of bilateral relations.The Cubans are not going to budge. We either deal with the Cuban Five or cordon those two issues off.”
In 2013, Ben Rhodes and Ricardo Zuñiga sat at the negotiations table on the United States’ side and diplomat Josefina Vidal represented Cuba. President Obama kept the meeting in the strictest secrecy – he didn’t even inform the Pentagon about it. Only Vice-President Joe Biden, Chief of White House Staff Denis McDonough and Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, were aware of the meeting. This way, Obama prevented negotiations from being boycotted from within his administration.