The century-old mansion that houses the Cuban Interests Section on 16th Street in northwest Washington will become the Embassy of Cuba again July 20.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday the U.S. and Cuba will reopen their embassies in Havana and Washington, heralding a “new chapter” in relations after a half-century of hostility, the Associated Press reported.
The embassy agreement marks the biggest tangible step toward normalizing relations since the surprise announcement in December that the U.S. and Cuba were restarting diplomatic ties.
A statement from the Cuban government said reopening embassies was just the first step in “a long and complex process toward normalization of bilateral ties.” It demanded an end to the U.S. embargo, the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo and a halt to U.S. radio and TV broadcasts aimed at the island.
The president on Wednesday reiterated his call for Congress to lift the embargo, which he said has failed to bring political change in Cuba. However, he faces stiff resistance from Republicans, as well as some Democrats, who say he is prematurely rewarding a government that engages in serious human rights abuses.
The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution. The U.S. spent decades trying to either actively overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening the economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Since the late 1970s, the United States and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called interests sections in each other's capitals. The missions are technically under the protection of Switzerland, and do not enjoy the same status as embassies.
The mansion at 2630 16th St. NW, which was built by the Cuban government, was maintained for several years by Czechoslovakia after the last Cuban diplomats left.