Democracy Now! - July 21, 2015
Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., to mark the historic restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries after 54 years. Crowds of people cheered as the Cuban national anthem played and three Cuban soldiers stood at attention while the flag was raised. Bruno Rodríguez became the first Cuban foreign minister to visit Washington since the time of the Cuban revolution. Later in the day, he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department. The U.S. Embassy in Havana also became fully operational Monday but will not host a flag-raising ceremony until August 14, when Kerry will pay a visit to the capital. Earlier Monday, Cuba’s flag was raised at the State Department, joining the flags of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States. Democracy Now! spoke with Ricardo Alarcón, former speaker of the Cuban National Assembly.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont also attended Monday’s opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. He played a pivotal role in the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba, and helped with the release of the Cuban Five. Leahy made headlines last year when it was revealed that Leahy helped the wife of one of the members of the Cuban Five become pregnant. Gerardo Hernández, the baby’s father, is one of the three former Cuban intelligence agents released in December as part of a prisoner swap amidst thawing ties with Cuba. While he was not allowed conjugal visits, Hernández was able to impregnate his wife by having his frozen sperm transferred to her in Panama, a process authorized by U.S. officials, funded by the Cuban government and facilitated by a staffer for Leahy. We speak to Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, at the Cuban Embassy.
Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered in Washington on Monday to mark the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after being closed for more than five decades. We speak to Congressmembers Raúl Grijalva and Barbara Lee; actor Danny Glover; former U.S. diplomat Wayne Smith; attorneys Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, who co-authored "Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder"; Phyllis Bennis and James Early of the Institute for Policy Studies; and others.
In news from Africa, the trial of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, began in Senegal on Monday but took an unexpected turn today when it was postponed 45 days after Habré’s attorneys did not show for the trial. Hissène Habré is a former U.S. ally who has been described as "Africa’s Pinochet." He is accused of killing as many as 40,000 people during his eight years in power in the 1980s. Habré is being tried in a special court established after a two-decade-long campaign led by his victims. In a statement today about the postponed trial, attorney Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch said, "The victims are of course very disappointed, but they have been fighting to bring this case to court for 25 years, and 45 days will not change anything in the long march towards justice." Democracy Now! recently spoke to Reed Brody here in New York before he left for Senegal for the trail. He has worked with victims of Hissène Habré’s regime since 1999.
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