US envoy to UN visits Cuba's UN Mission, first in decades

US envoy to UN Samantha Power visits Cuba’s UN Mission to meet with Cuban ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez in another step towards re-establishing diplomatic relations

Photo by: United States Mission Geneva
Photo by: United States Mission Geneva

Samantha Power speaks at an event at the United Nations Office at Geneva on June 1, 2010

Samantha Power made the first visit by an American ambassador to the United Nations to Cuba's U.N. Mission in over a half-century on Friday.

U.S. Mission spokeswoman Hagar Chemali said Power discussed the normalization of relations between the two countries and priorities at the United Nations during her first-ever meeting with Cuba's U.N. Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez.

Cuba and the United States broke off diplomatic relations in 1961 during tense Cold War times. After almost 54 years of hostilities, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 that they would negotiate a restoration of ties. That happened on July 20 when the two countries formally re-established diplomatic relations.

"President Obama reversed 50 years of policy on Cuba because he believed, as do I, that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement," Power said in a statement.

"Isolation has not worked," she said.

Power said ending that isolation whether by restoring diplomatic relations, Obama's first meeting with Raul Castro, Secretary of State John Kerry's upcoming visit to Havana, "or the simple act of going down the street to visit the Cuban U.N. ambassador for the first time in a half-century — these are the measures that open dialogue and give us the opportunity to stand up for our values, including human rights and human dignity."

She said this "will ultimately do more to help the Cuban people than the outdated policy of the past."

Power has set a personal goal of visiting the U.N. mission of every country that the U.S. has diplomatic relations with and according to U.S. officials Cuba was the 127th. There are 193 U.N. member states and the U.S. has no relations with several including North Korea and Iran.