In 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Havana, Cuba to formally re-designate the U.S. Interests Section to U.S. Embassy Havana.
Today Secretary Kerry summarizes our progress with Cuba in his, “Exit Memo From Secretary Kerry to President Obama”:
For over fifty years, our efforts to isolate Cuba failed to advance our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. In fact, it was often the United States – not Cuba – that was left isolated by this policy.
That’s why President Obama decided it was time for a new approach that would enhance our engagement with the Cuban people and better support their aspirations. Over the last two years, we have reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba, reopened our Embassy in Havana, and advanced engagement efforts on a number of fronts. For the first time in fifty years, we have reestablished direct commercial flights and direct mail flights between the United States and Cuba. We have lifted the restrictions on certain Cuban products, opened doors for cooperation in mutually-beneficial areas such as marine protected areas and health, and facilitated an expansion of authorized travel to Cuba. We continue to support improved human rights and democratic reforms in Cuba and are confident that this new approach will be a more effective way to do so.
Going forward, if we want to deepen the connections that bind our nations and our peoples, it is critical for Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba, an outdated burden on the Cuban people that continues to impede U.S. interests. Over time, we believe greater engagement will serve the interests of both the American people and Cuban people, and provide a better foundation for growth and progress in the relationship between our countries.
Our new relationship with Cuba has also removed an irritant in our relationships throughout the Western Hemisphere. Throughout this administration, we have worked to advance a Western Hemisphere that is prosperous, secure, democratic, and that plays a greater global role. For the first time in the history in this region, the number of people in the middle class has surpassed the number living in poverty. We maintain close partnerships with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, and strong relationships with countries throughout the region, from Chile to Argentina to Colombia, where, with our quiet but steady support, they are closer than ever to ending the planet’s longest running civil war. We remain deeply engaged in the region, alongside key partners, to address the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. We are also working with our Central American partners to put that region on a course to sustained, broad-based economic growth, better government performance, and improved security conditions. And in the years ahead we should continue to forge partnerships throughout the Western Hemisphere rooted in mutual respect and shared values.