After more than half a century of Cold War estrangement, Cubans express mixed expectations over Havana's U.S. détente. Nathan Frandino reports.
Outside the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cubans are paving the way for Washington to reopen its embassy there this week as the two nations turn over a new diplomatic leaf after more than five decades. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due in Cuba on Friday for the embassy's inauguration in which officials will unfold and hoist the Stars and Stripes. Local residents are hoping for a bright future for both countries. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) RESIDENT, CRISTINA PEREZ, SAYING: "I hope all is in favor for us, for the government, for both governments, for everything to be okay." The embassy there ceased operations in 1961 two years after Fidel Castro toppled the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray hopes the U.S. will not interfere like in the past and embrace this new opportunity. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER CUBAN DIPLOMAT, CARLOS ALZUGARAY, SAYING: "So in my view, how would I react? I would extend to every American diplomat the hospitality and the good will, not letting the past determine my actions, but not forgetting that that past exists." During the historic, high-level talks, U.S. pressed Cuba to improve human rights and while Havana has released some political prisoners, Elizardo Sanchez, of Cuba's independent National Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, says much more needs to be done. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ELIZARDO SANCHEZ, DISSIDENT AND SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION, SAYING: "We are not hoping for and I don't think from the governments there will be anything spectacular from the restoration of relations because the Cuban government refuses to enact the urgent reforms that Cuba needs on civil rights, politics, the economy, social and even cultural areas, so that things can improve here." Though friction continues between the two nations, the reopening of embassies has provided the most concrete symbols of progress after more than two years of negotiations between the Cold War foes.