Kerry presses Cuba for genuine democracy at flag raising ceremony

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John Kerry
United States Secretary of State, John Kerry called for political change in Cuba on Friday, telling Cubans they should be free to choose their own leaders, as he watched the U.S. flag fly at the American embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years.
Leading a ceremony to mark the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Cold War adversaries, Kerry declared a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations but pressed the Communist government on democracy and human rights.
“We remain convinced the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders,” he said in a one-party state where the media is tightly controlled and political dissent is repressed.
“We will continue to urge the Cuban government to fulfill its obligations under U.N. and Inter-American human rights covenants,” Kerry said, his words accurately translated into Spanish and broadcast live on Cuban state television.
His comments drew a firm riposte from Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who defended Cuba at a news conference with Kerry and criticized the United States’ own record on rights, referring to racial strife and police brutality in America.
Speaking later with reporters, Kerry said the U.S. Congress was unlikely to lift a punishing economic embargo on Cuba unless human rights improved.
“There is no way Congress is going to vote to lift the embargo if they are not moving with respect to issues of conscience,” said Kerry, who in the first visit to Cuba by a U.S. secretary of state in 70 years met for about an hour with some of the country’s most prominent dissidents.
Cuba fiercely rejects such conditions and it declined to attend a U.S. reception where the dissidents were present.
*Reuters/NAN …Read More

Source:: PM Newspaper