HAVANA TIMES — The governments of the United States and Cuba will begin in Havana on January 21, a dialogue for the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, after over half a century of rupture and ideological confrontation, reported dpa.
Roberta Jacobson, assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, will lead the US delegation to participate in the talks on migration issues, to be held on January 21-22 in Havana, announced US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki at a press conference.
The trip will represent the highest level mission of a US diplomat to visit the island in half a century.
The occasion is a new round of talks on migration policy between the US and Cuba, one of the few exchanges maintained until now between Washington and Havana.
The meeting was already scheduled before the historic announcement made on December 17 by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro, after 18 months of secret negotiations. But now, after the thaw between Washington and Havana, the meeting acquires a much greater dimension.
Jacobson will use the meeting to “launch a discussion with the Cuban government for the normalization of diplomatic relations,” said Psaki.
The migration agreements between the US and Cuba, signed in 1995, were aimed at combating illegal migration and facilitate a regular migratory flow of Cubans to the United States. The two governments conduct regularly scheduled meetings every six months. The latest round took place in July 2014 in Cuba.
Washington and Havana signed these migration accords in the wake of the “rafter crisis” of 1994. Back then, tens of thousands of Cubans reached US shores or were picked up by the US Coast Guard in a mass exodus of several weeks.
Since then, Washington agree to grant each year 20,000 visas to Cubans to facilitate an orderly exit from the island, while Havana agreed to accept without retaliation those who are returned by the US authorities.
On the other hand, the State Department spokesman said the US government has decided, for now, to keep the names secret of the 53 political prisoners on the list drawn up by the Obama administration list and that the government of Raul Castro pledged to release.
“We know who’s on the list. The Cubans know who is on the list,” noted Psaki, who said they have decided that “the best way to secure the release of these individuals is not to name them publicly.”
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) today announced that Cuban authorities released on Wednesday at least five political prisoners.
The Cuban government, meanwhile, has not reported any release of prisoners under the rapprochement with the United States, after the releases of US citizen Alan Gross and a Cuban spy for the US government announced on December 17.
Obama and Castro announced in December that the two countries would resume diplomatic relations that were broken off by the USA in 1961. As part of this process, Washington and Havana must transform their Interests Sections into embassies and appoint an ambassador.
With nearly two million people of Cuban descent settled in the US, mainly in the state of Florida, it is the country where the largest Cuban exile community resides.