Things That Matter

Cuban Embassy Reopens. Cigars, Protests and Food Ensue

Seven months after President Obama announced that the United States would begin normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Cuban flag is flying in the United States for the first time in 54 years. Large crowds gathered outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. as the flag was raised for the first time since 1961. Here’s what went down on this historic day:

Some people posed with the flag before it was raised.

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

That’s the same flag that was lowered in on January 3, 1961, when the US cut off diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Others celebrated with a cigar.

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

And while people inside in the Cuban Embassy enjoyed some snacks…

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

All eyes (and cameras) were on the Cuban Embassy building.

Cuban flag raised at embassy
Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

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There were plenty of supporters on hand…

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Along with protestors.

In Miami, protestors lined the streets to make their voices heard.

Cuba embassy protest
Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

 Some engaged in debate…

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Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

And others sent messages to President Obama.

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Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

Back in D.C., the flag was raised to cheers from the crowd.

And there's the flag ??

A video posted by Christian Toppenberg (@cebtopp) on

After 54 years, the flag was flying in the U.S. once again.

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Three Cuban soldiers stood at attention while the flag made its way up the pole.

A new plaque went up…

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Secretary of State John Kerry made it official with a handshake…

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Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty

And the selfies started making their way to Instagram.

*Officially* a new neighbor on 16th St, #CubanEmbassy raised its flag and opened today. #Cuba #embassy #DC

A photo posted by Jason Dixson (@jasondixsonphoto) on

Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

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Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Ivan Bor / Getty Images

Cuba has been one of the hemisphere’s coronavirus success stories — but a sudden outbreak in its capital has brought on a strict, two-week Havana lockdown. Residents of the capital city will be forced to stay-at-home for 15-days, while people from other parts of the island ill be prohibited from visiting – essentially sealing off the city from the outside world.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic has pummeled the island’s economy and has left many everyday items out of reach for many Cubans. Some are being forced to turn to ‘dollar stores,’ where the U.S. dollar is once again accepted as hard currency – something now allowed since 1993.

Officials have ordered a strict 15-day lockdown of Havana in an effort to stamp out the spread of Coronavirus in the capital.

Aggressive anti-virus measures, including closing down air travel, have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in Cuba with the exception of Havana, where cases have surged from a handful a day to dozens daily over the last month. 

A daily curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. was instituted Tuesday. Most stores are barred from selling to shoppers from outside the immediate neighborhood in order to discourage people from moving around the city. 

Some Havana residents complained that the measures were complicating the already difficult task of buying food in a city hit by constant shortages and endless lines for a limited supply of basic goods. Some provinces that saw no new cases for weeks have begun detecting them in recent days, often linked to travelers from Havana.

The start of in-person classes for students was also indefinitely delayed in Havana, while schools opened normally in the rest of Cuba.

To enforce the lockdown, police stationed on every road leaving Havana are supposed to stop anyone who doesn’t have a special travel permit, which is meant to be issued only in extraordinary circumstances.

Under the strict new lockdown measures, anyone who is found in violation of the stay-at-home orders face fines of up to $125 per violation, more than triple the average monthly wage.

The island nation had seemed to manage the pandemic well – with fewer cases than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

Credit: Ivan Bor / Getty Images

The island of 11 million people has reported slightly more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with fewer than 100 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the region.

The government made face masks obligatory in the early stages of its pandemic response, and in the first months of the crisis police aggressively fined and even jailed people for violations. 

That vigilance slackened somewhat as Havana moved out of the first, strictest phase of lockdown in July, when public transportation restarted and people returned to work. The number of coronavirus cases then began to climb again.

Meanwhile, the Cuban economy has tanked and residents are struggling to make ends meet now more than ever before.

Credit: Yamil Lage / Getty Images

The pandemic has hit the island’s economy particularly hard. Much of the island relies on agricultural and tourism – two sectors that have been decimated by Coronavirus.

As a result, many Cubans are struggling to afford everyday items. Rice – which used to sell for about $13 Cuban pesos per kilo is now going for triple that.

In an effort to allow Cubans better access to goods, the government has began recognizing the U.S. dollar as official currency. This is extraordinary as mere possession of U.S. dollars was long considered a criminal offense. However, the measure draws a line between the haves and have-nots, one that runs even deeper than it did before the pandemic.

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Cuban Doctors Arrive In Italy To Combat The Coronavirus– Demonstrate History Of Global Humanitarian Commitment

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Cuban Doctors Arrive In Italy To Combat The Coronavirus– Demonstrate History Of Global Humanitarian Commitment

USA Today/ Twitter

Communist-run Cuba received a round of applause yesterday after it was shown that the country had dispatched a fleet of doctors and healthcare providers to Italy.

Since the 1959 revolution, the Caribbean country has sent Cuban medical personnel overseas to disaster sites around the world, particularly in poor countries.

Cuban medical internationalism is the Cuban program that has sent doctors to the most underserved corners of the world. Its broad sweep of mission program has seen the country attend to 37 countries in Latin American countries,33 African countries and 24 Asian countries. In the face of the 2010s Cholera outbreak in Haiti and West Africa, the Cuban doctors played a key part in the relief.

And while a — research study pointed out that the country has provided more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined, Cuba’s aid to Italy in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic is notably surprising. After all, this is the first time that Cuba has sent an emergency unit to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries and also the one worst affected by the disease. Cuba’s presence there demonstrates it’s role as a medical commodity.

On Monday, the Cuban doctors were seen arriving in Italy to assist in combatting Covid-19.

According to Reuters, this is the sixth medical group that Cuba has sent in recent days to fight the spread of the disease. Recently it sent contingents to doctors to its socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua. It also sent doctors to Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada.

“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Dr. Leonardo Fernandez, an intensive care specialist from Cuba, told Reuters on Saturday. “He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”

Cuba’s healthcare system was built with the help of its former Soviet Union ally but many of its advances have collapsed in the wake of the communist bloc’s fall.

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Cubans have bemoaned their lack of access to medicine, hospitals have become dilapidated.

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