In a symbolic ceremony marking the end of 54 years of hostility, Cuba will raise its flag over a limestone mansion here on Monday and officially reopen its U.S. Embassy.
Hundreds of people, including U.S. lawmakers, diplomats and others are expected to join visiting Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, who will lead a delegation of about 30 officials from Havana, including Cuba’s chief negotiator on the normalization of diplomatic ties, Josefina Vidal.
The U.S. hasn’t announced a date for a formal ceremony to mark the upgrade of its mission in Havana to an official embassy and no events are planned there Monday.
The U.S. will wait to raise an American flag and unveil a new sign until Secretary of State John Kerry travels there to do the honors later this summer, officials said. Mr. Kerry will meet Mr. Rodríguez at the State Department on Monday.
A trio of Cuban-American lawmakers will hold a news conference Monday in Miami to denounce the embassy reopening.
“Allowing the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington is nothing but another indefensible capitulation by the Obama administration to an avowed enemy of the U.S.,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), who will host the conference along with Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) and Carlos Curbelo (R., Fla.).
In Cuba, leading dissidents say the regime has sharply increased its repression and detained a growing number of its opponents since the December announcement that the two countries would work to re-establish diplomatic relations.
“Without a doubt there has been a big increase in the number of arbitrary detentions and beatings of activists,” said José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union by telephone.
Like the nuclear agreement reached last week with Iran, the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba has grown out of the Obama administration’s policy of engaging with longstanding adversaries.
About 500 guests are expected to attend the ceremony at a building that has served as the Cuban Interests Section, a diplomatic post without an ambassador.
On Monday, Cuba’s flag also be hung in the State Department’s lobby alongside those of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, the U.S.’s chief negotiator in more than six months of diplomatic talks, will be the ranking U.S. official at Cuba’s embassy opening, which also will include Washington’s chief of mission in Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis. He will be elevated to the charge d’affaires on Monday. Mr. Obama has no plans to nominate an ambassador anytime soon, officials have said.
Among U.S. lawmakers at Monday’s event will be Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), a sponsor of legislation to lift the U.S. travel embargo against Cuba. She called the opening “another important step forward to ending more than five decades of failed policy toward Cuba.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, a Cuban blogger and Castro regime opponent who left Cuba for the U.S. in 2013, said he and about a dozen others planned to gather outside the event on Monday with banners and signs to voice their views.
“We are not exactly in favor of isolation but change doesn’t mean giving to the regime, the claims of the regime without at least listening to the claims of civil society,” he said.
In Cuba, Mr. Ferrer said the number of his group’s activists now being detained by the Cuban government has doubled to at least 22 since January when the government freed 53 political prisoners, 33 of whom were members of the organization.
Mr. Ferrer, who is in favor of the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, said the Cuban regime is betting that an eventual lifting of the embargo, and increased trade with the U.S. will better economic conditions in Cuba and lead regime opponents to give up their struggle for political and social change. “They expect the population to be happy with carrots,” he said.
He said Havana was working hard to convince the U.S. as well as the European Union that Cuba’s growing civil society movement is not a factor of change on the island. “In that respect, we are the big party poopers,” he said.