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John Kerry in democracy call as US reopens embassy in Cuba

Published 14/08/2015

In this photo provided by the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI), Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, center, and Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, sit inside a van after Maduro and Castro picked up Morales at his hotel in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, 13 2015. The three leaders continued on to celebrate Castro's 89th birthday. (Ivan Maldonado/ABI via AP)
In this photo provided by the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI), Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, center, and Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, sit inside a van after Maduro and Castro picked up Morales at his hotel in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, 13 2015. The three leaders continued on to celebrate Castro's 89th birthday. (Ivan Maldonado/ABI via AP)
Workers prepare for the flag raising ceremony, outside the newly opened U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry arrived in Havana Friday for an historic ceremony to raise the U.S. flag over a restored U.S. Embassy in the Cuban capital. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A Cuban policeman patrols the surroundings of the US Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015, a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba for re-opening the embassy. This is the first time in years that Cuban police takes bicycles for patrolling. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban policemen patrol the surroundings of the US Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015, a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba for re-opening the embassy. This is the first time in years that Cuban police takes bicycles for patrolling. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a 'thumbs-up' as he prepares to board his aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base for a flight to Havana, Cuba, August 14, 2015. Kerry is traveling to the Cuban capital to raise the US flag and formally reopen the long-closed US Embassy. Cuba and U. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO/POOL/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAISPABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images
A Cuban flag flutters on top of a rock near the US Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015, a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba for re-opening the embassy. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A painted portrait of former Cuban President Fidel Castro stands in the doorway of a museum on the revolutionary leader's birthday in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Cubans use internet in a street of Havana, on August 13, 2015. Many Cubans hope that the new relations with the United States will improve the communication with their relatives living abroad. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A lone Cuban flag is raised inside the 'Wall of Flags' across the street from the U.S. Embassy (background) August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Cuba planted 138 flag poles in February 2006 in an attempt to obsucre an electronic message ticker on the outside of the U.S. Interests Section building. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A lone Cuban flag is raised inside the 'Wall of Flags' across the street from the U.S. Embassy August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Cuba planted 138 flag poles in February 2006 in an attempt to obsucre an electronic message ticker on the outside of the U.S. Interests Section building. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A bride on a car passes by the US embassy (R) on Havana's Malecon seafront, on August 13, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. Three ex-Marines who lowered the US flag at the embassy in Cuba in 1961 will be back on Friday with Kerry to raise the Stars and Stripes once again. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Handout picture released by Bolivian news agency ABI, showing Cuban former president, Fidel Castro (R), on his 89th birthday, with Bolivian President Evo Morales (C) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Havana, on August 13, 2015. Castro's birthday is being celebrated with a wide array of events. AFP PHOTO / ABI / HO --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / ABI / HO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - GETTY OUT--/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A Cuban woman wears American-flag themed tights in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Workers set up a dais at the US embassy on Havana's Malecon seafront, on August 13, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. Three ex-Marines who lowered the US flag at the embassy in Cuba in 1961 will be back on Friday with Kerry to raise the Stars and Stripes once again. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Picture of the US embassy (R) on Havana's Malecon seafront, on August 13, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. Three ex-Marines who lowered the US flag at the embassy in Cuba in 1961 will be back on Friday with Kerry to raise the Stars and Stripes once again. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 12: A young couple kiss on top of the fortifications of El Castillo del Morro, an old Spanish fort that stands at the mouth of the Port of Havana, August 12, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A bronze bust of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln stands in a public park in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Cuban workers set up a dais in front of the US embassy during preparations for its inauguration, on August 12, 2015 in Havana. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban workers put finishing touches to a building in front of the US embassy during preparations for the latter's inauguration, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man jogs in front of the US embassy (R) on Havana's waterfront Malecon, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban workers unload floorboards in front of the US embassy during preparations for its inauguration, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 12: The U.S. Embassy is reflected in a window of an apartment building as a woman enjoys the afternoon breeze on her balcony above the Malecon seawall August 12, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Workers set up a dais at the US embassy during preparations for its inauguration, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A bus with the Cuban and US flags is seen on a beach in Havana, on August 12, 2015. Cuba and the United States have restored full diplomatic relations last month after more than a half century of enmity. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Workers talks under the shadow of a billboard as they start mounting the altar where Pope Francis will give a mass next September, at the Holguin Revolution Square, on August 12, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States. During his stay, the pope will say two big outdoor masses, one in Havana and the other in Holguin in the east of the island. AFP PHOTO / STR--/AFP/Getty Images
Workers start mounting the altar where Pope Francis will give a mass next September, at the Holguin Revolution Square, on August 12, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States. During his stay, the pope will say two big outdoor masses, one in Havana and the other in Holguin in the east of the island. AFP PHOTO / STR--/AFP/Getty Images
Workers start mounting the altar where Pope Francis will give a mass next September, at the Holguin Revolution Square, on August 12, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States. During his stay, the pope will say two big outdoor masses, one in Havana and the other in Holguin in the east of the island. AFP PHOTO / STR--/AFP/Getty Images
View of the US embassy (R) on Havana's waterfront Malecon, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban workers set up a dais at the US embassy in Havana during preparations for its inauguration, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks along the ledge of a building after hanging two giant Cuban flags, next to the US embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. The embassy will hold a ceremony on Friday, Aug. 14 to raise the U.S. flag, to mark its reopening on Havanas historic waterfront. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Workers repair the San Isidoro de Holguin Cathedral in Holguin, Cuba, on August 11, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States. During his stay, the pope will say two big outdoor masses, one in Havana and the other in Holguin in the east of the island. AFP PHOTO / STR--/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban dissidents and members of the Ladies in White human rights group hold a Cuban national flag and pictures of imprisoned dissidents as they protest against the reopening of the US embassy in the island, in a park of Havana, on August 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Francisco JARAFrancisco JARA/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 12: Cuban boys use their mobile digital devices to play a wirelessly networked video game August 12, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A plaque with the United States' Declaration of Independence is seen on a wall at the US embassy in Havana -- the former US Interest Section -- taken on August 7, 2015. Last month, President Barack Obama unveiled a breakthrough deal with Cuba to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana, in a major step toward ending decades of Cold war enmity. US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to visit the island nation on August 14th to officially reopen the US embassy and fly the American flag over the building for the first time since January 3, 1961. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 12: Cubans pose for photographs on top of the fortifications of El Castillo del Morro, an old Spanish fort at the mouth of the Port of Havana as the sun sets August 12, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A painted portrait of former Cuban President Fidel Castro stands in the doorway of a museum in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: Cubans walk past a bronze bust of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: Cubans stand in line for hours outside an ETECSA state-run telecommunication store to add credit to their mobile phone accounts or activate mobile email in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: Cubans walk past a bronze bust of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: Cubans stand in line for hours outside an ETECSA state-run telecommunication store to add credit to their mobile phone accounts or activate mobile email in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 12: Cubans and tourists crowd the fortifications of El Castillo del Morro, an old Spanish fort at the mouth of the Port of Havana, in preparation for the daily canon firing ceremony August 12, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: Cubans walk past a bronze bust of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A woman reacts to a 'living statue' peformer in the old part of the city August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Stars and Stripes were raised over the newly-reopened US Embassy in Cuba as Secretary of State John Kerry called for democratic change on the island ruled by a single party for more than five decades.

"We remain convinced the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas, practice their faith," Mr Kerry said.

John Kerry arrives at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba. (AP)
John Kerry arrives at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba. (AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a 'thumbs-up' as he prepares to board his aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base for a flight to Havana, Cuba, August 14, 2015. Kerry is traveling to the Cuban capital to raise the US flag and formally reopen the long-closed US Embassy. Cuba and U. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO/POOL/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAISPABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images

He made his address before an audience of Cuban and US diplomats on the embassy grounds and millions of islanders watching and listening live.

Political change remains a taboo topic in Cuba despite a series of economic reforms and the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with the US under President Raul Castro, who took over when his brother Fidel formally stepped down in 2008 after decades in power.

After the ceremony, Mr Kerry met with Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez.

He told reporters that diplomats would meet in the second week of September to set the agenda for wide-ranging talks on normalisation, covering topics from maritime security and public health to the billions of dollars in claims and counter-claims stemming from Cuban confiscation of US property and the subsequent US trade embargo on Cuba.

Mr Rodriguez said the countries continue to have profound differences over issues such as human rights.

He accused the US of rights abuses from police shootings of black men to mistreatment of prisoners at naval base Guantanamo Bay.

President Barack Obama made a milder call for change in Cuba when he announced the new US policy of engagement on December 17 last year.

A live call for change from a serving US official speaking in Havana - Mr Kerry is the first secretary of state to visit since 1945 - was remarkable for its bluntness and the national spotlight in which it came.

Many islanders lauded Mr Kerry's call for reform, including greater access to technology on an island with one of the world's lowest rates of internet penetration.

They paired their praise with calls for the US to lift the 53-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and allow easier travel between the two countries.

Mr Kerry said a long-time US strategy of trying to isolate Cuba, foment grass-roots agitation and provoke regime change by choking off trade and finance through the embargo had failed.

"The policies of the past have not led to a democratic transition here in Cuba. It would be equally unrealistic to expect normalising relations to have a transformative impact in the short-term," he said. "After all, Cuba's future is for Cubans to shape."

After speaking to reporters with Mr Rodriguez, Mr Kerry briefly walked Old Havana's historic Plaza de San Francisco with Havana City historian Eusebio Leal, stopping to look in shops and greet residents and store owners.

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