Since taking over as president for his ailing brother in 2008, Raul Castro, the longtime defense minister, has proven less bellicose toward America than his brother, now 88 and retired.

“We haven’t seen anything” suggesting practical change, he said.

The Cuban flag will soon be hung in the lobby of the State Department, joining those of other nations with which the United States has diplomatic relations, the department said Friday.

The US and Cuba have been holding official talks since January and formally resume diplomatic relations on Monday.

Cuban President Raul Castro called on his USA counterpart Barack Obama Wednesday to use his executive powers to “dismantle” the economic embargo placed on his island nation.

“You have to appreciate the words of the president… but you have to see what happens in practice”, Gustavo Machin, deputy director for USA affairs in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

Monday “will begin a new stage, long and complex, on the way to the normalisation of relations, which will require finding solutions to problems that have accumulated over more than five decades and affect the ties between our countries and people”, Castro said.

The 2016 US State Department budget request includes $20 million for such programs to aid victims of political repression, support and promote free speech.

WASHINGTON – The United States is set to remove Cuba from the list of worst offenders in failing to suppress human trafficking and forced labour, USA sources said, removing a longstanding irritant between the former Cold War foes at a time of détente.

“We recognize the statement by the president, but you have to see the practical impact of what happens, don’t you?”

Rodrφguez will be in Washington for the upgrading of the Cuban Interests Section in the capital city to a full-fledged embassy. Later in the day he will be received by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Cuba has insisted that in order for relations to be considered fully normalized, the United States needs to lift the illegal blockade on Cuba and return Guantanamo Bay to Havana.