Fidel Castro Sports a U.S. Flag Pin: Exclusive Photos

An unprecedented gesture by the former Cuban president signals a major thaw.

ByABC News via logo
April 30, 2009, 11:13 PM

HAVANA, Cuba, May 1, 2009 — -- Photos of Fidel Castro meeting with a United States congressional delegation last month show the former Cuban president wearing lapel flag pins from both Cuba and the United States.

That surprising image signals a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations after limits on family visits imposed by the Bush administration were dropped by President Obama April 13 .

Now at Havana's Jose Marti Airport, planeload after planeload of Cuban Americans enter the country to visit relatives.

Obama said in a speech last month at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad that the United States is seeking a new beginning with Cuba, but the president also called on the communist regime to release political prisoners and embrace democratic freedoms.

Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother, responded that his government would be happy to discuss those issues as long as its sovereignty is respected.

Many former critics say they now realize that the U.S. government's five-decade isolation of Cuba has produced few results -- the Castros still have a lock on power -- so maybe it's time for a new approach.

Today's May Day celebration in Cuba is unlikely to emphasize any improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations.

Raul Castro said Wednesday at a Non-Aligned Movement meeting that "Cuba is not the one that needs to make gestures."

Americans like Francisco Rodriguez are thrilled they can now visit and send money to relatives in Cuba.

"I would love for U.S. and Cuba to work together as a family," Rodriguez said. "We have been all waiting for that."

Fidel Castro, seated right, talks to Calif. Rep. Laura Richardson and other members of the Congressional delegation that visited Cuba. Photo courtesy of Rep. Laura Richardson's office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.