Ladies in White

The Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on August 15, 2015

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 15 August 2015 — Six hours after the
hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy along the Malecon, a
similar ceremony occurred on 150th Street in the Cubanacan neighborhood
where the official residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, charge d’affaires
of that country, is located.

All of the heads of the United States Interest Section have lived in
this mansion in recent years, and there is a flagpole in its garden.
Across from it, congregated hundreds of guests who did not physically
fit in the small space where hours earlier American and Cuban officials
had witnessed the symbolic act that opened the US embassy in Havana.

The celebration at the residence was attended by diplomats,
representatives of civil society, clergy, intellectuals and Cuban
artists along with the large delegation that accompanied John Kerry in
his trip to Cuba, including the three Marines who, 54 years ago, lowered
the flag when the countries broke off relations, who given the honor of
participating in the raising. The US Army Brass Quintet played an
international repertoire, with no shortage Cuban pieces such as
Guantanamera and Manisero.

In the official residence John Kerry held a half-hour meeting behind
closed doors with representatives of civil society activists and
independent journalists, including Dagoberto Valdes, Elsa Morejon,
Hector Maseda, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Martha Beatriz
Roque, Miriam Leiva, Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo
Escobar. Those present shared with Kerry the concerns and expectations
generated by the restoration of relations between the two countries and
presented an overview of the different projects they are engaged in.

Although the official media did not mention this activity on the busy
schedule of the Secretary of State, it was one of the moments that
marked the character of the Kerry’s visit to Cuba because it was the
only thing that could provoke, and in fact did provoke, friction and

The Cuban leaders were annoyed because they would have preferred a
distancing between the highest US official to step on Cuban soil in half
a century, and this part of the non-conforming Cuban citizenry,
persecuted, slandered and discriminated against by the government.

Others who shared this annoyance were some opponents, such as the leader
of the Ladies in White Berta Soler and activist Antonio Gonzalez
Rodiles, who declined the invitation they received because they believe
that the US government has betrayed them “to establish relations with
the dictatorship.”

At the meeting there was nothing that deserves to be classified as
secret talks or as parallel agreements. The Cuban guests offered a
general explanation of the four points of consensus from civil society,
promoted by the Civil Society Open Forum, expressed the need for the
United States to unblock all brakes it applies today on internet access
for Cubans, and mentioned different initiatives such as developing
proposals for a new Electoral Law, creating a “think tank” on Cuban
affairs, and the civic actions of different political platforms.

Similarly, guests expressed the concern that main beneficiary of the
restoration of relations is the Cuban government, and that the Cuban
people will continue to suffer just as if nothing had occurred. Perhaps
most important was the response of Kerry on this point. The Secretary of
State committed to maintaining his government’s interest in advances on
issues of human rights in Cuba. If no steps are taken in this direction
there will be no lifting of the embargo, he said plainly.

Source: The Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba –

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