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Kerry wraps up historic Cuba flag-raising visit.

HAVANA, Cuba - Secretary of State John Kerry departed Cuba Friday after a historic daylong visit to raise the US flag at the American embassy - a milestone in Washington's rapprochement with its onetime foe.

The top US diplomat - the first US secretary of state to visit the island in seven decades -- left aboard his official plane at 8 pm.

Kerry called Friday for "genuine democracy" in Cuba as the American flag was raised over a US embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years.

At a pageant-filled ceremony earlier Friday, he gave the cue to hoist the Stars and Stripes over the glass-and-concrete building on the Havana waterfront.

Three retired Marines who lowered the flag on January 4, 1961 - when Washington severed ties with Havana at the height of the Cold War - were present to hand the new flag to the Marine guard now charged with security at the embassy.

The symbolic moment served as a picture-perfect coda to eight months of rapid change since the December 17 rapprochement announcement by US President Barack Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, which paved the way for the two countries to reopen their embassies on July 20.

The first secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, Kerry said the shift in US policy did not mean Washington would stop pressing for change on the communist island.

CAPTION(S):

US Secretary of State John Kerry (center) stands with other dignitaries as members of the US Marines raise the US flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba on August 14, 2015 AFP PHOTO/POOL/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

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Title Annotation:Latest News
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Aug 15, 2015
Words:267
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