US, Cuba Inch Closer to Opening Embassies, No Date Set

The top US negotiator was once again Roberta Jacobson.  Foto cubadebate.cu
The top US negotiator was once again Roberta Jacobson. Foto cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Negotiators from the United States and Cuba achieved “progress” today in the fourth round of negotiations this year between the two governments, but did not set a date for the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana, reported dpa.

US State Dept. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, led the US delegation, while Josefina Vidal, director of US affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, headed the Cuban delegation.

Following the two-day session, Jacobson and Vidal, in separate press conferences, both said substantial progress had been made and that their governments are “getting closer” to reaching an agreement for the opening of embassies, five months after the diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

“It was a very productive meeting,” said Jacobson, who explained that though she is “by nature optimistic,” she is also “realistic about the difficulties of this process.”

Jacobson acknowledged that reaching an agreement between Washington and Havana “is no easy task, given the complicated history” including over half a century of severance of diplomatic relations, broken off unilaterally by the US in 1961, and ideological confrontation.

Cuban negotiator Josefina Vidal said that in recent weeks the two sides staff have addressed several different issues, “civil aviation, human trafficking, human rights, immigration fraud, marine protected areas, hydrography and nautical charts and research on marine species.” She said that both governments will soon conduct exchanges on health, in particular in the fight against infectious diseases.

Cuba's representative Josefina Vidal at her press conference following the two days of talks.  Foto: cubadebate.cu
Cuba’s representative Josefina Vidal at her press conference following the two days of talks. Foto: cubadebate.cu

Vidal said the fourth round was held in “a respectful and professional climate” and that talks between the two governments will continue in the coming weeks.

Jacobson said that a fifth round of negotiations may not be necessary, since the issues remaining to open embassies could be resolved in the near future by the respective Interests Sections and the heads of mission of both countries.

“We are getting closer to our goal, but there are still some elements that we have to resolve,” said Vidal.

Both governments have expressed their desire to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Remaining differences involve the future operation of the respective embassies and the freedom of movement of the diplomats.

Washington wants diplomats to travel freely outside Havana to other parts of the island and be able to meet with Cuban citizens, including political dissidents. Havana fears that such activities destabilize the government.

First the Embassies than the Road to Normal Relations

The US and Cuba agree that the opening of embassies will be a first step in a long process for the normalization of bilateral relations, where numerous other thorny issues will come into play.

From the beginning of the negotiations, the government of Raul Castro insisted Washington remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and find a bank to handle the accounts of the Cuban Interests Section. Both obstacles have now been overcome.

On May 29, the US will take Cuba off the “blacklist” it has been on since 1982, a decision that Vidal described as “fair”.

Likewise, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington has finally found a bank in the United States: Stonegate Bank. This will ensure the normal functioning of the Cuban diplomatic mission and allow it to fully resume the consular services it provides.

“Half a century of isolation, confrontation and mistrust make any process of normalization difficult, but the Cuban government now has to remain on the international stage and be accountable for their positions and US policy cannot be used as an excuse for inaction,” said Ric Herrero, executive director of CubaNow, an organization led by young Cuban-Americans.

James Williams, president of the “Engage Cuba” a coalition working for a shift in the stance of the US Congress towards the island, urged the legislators to lift the embargo on Cuba. This coalition helped the Cuban mission to find a bank for its accounts.

In the absence of direct diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States currently maintain Interests Sections which allows them to provide consular services and keep limited bilateral relations on certain specific issues like migration. Both countries’ staff has, however, serious restrictions on action and movement.


19 thoughts on “US, Cuba Inch Closer to Opening Embassies, No Date Set

  • May 26, 2015 at 9:27 am
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    You have no right to tell anyone, let alone me, what they hate. From the inaccuracy of your comments, you seem to struggle to understand what people say. You are out of your league in understanding what people feel. Being called a zealot for a free and democratic Cuba is a complement.

  • May 26, 2015 at 7:53 am
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    You seem to hate everything in Cuba that is not subversive. You are anti-Cuban by anyone’s definition, excepting those of your fellow zealots.

  • May 25, 2015 at 7:54 pm
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    I find your comments and reporting of events very interesting and thank you for them. Yes, in my opinion the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 was an act of terrorism and the trial of the leading perpetrator in the US a farce.
    My criticisms are directed at the Castro family regime. If Fidel Castro had following the revolution and a period of direct control necessary to re-establish a sound administration, held democratic elections, he could have achieved as significant a role as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. But sadly he chose otherwise, from liberating a country from a despotic rule, he replaced it with another. My experiences of communism in Europe are considerable – I have previously disclosed that my late father was Head of Station for SIS (MI6) in Vienna, having been one of the first two Britishers to enter the City after it fell to the Russians. He died there in 1997. He always maintained (I recall him saying so in about 1950) that the Allies would have to maintain a containment policy and that eventually the communist system would rot from within. He was correct.
    Some of his agents who operated in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and places east, were caught and shot. The “five” were fortunate.
    When you speak of Celia Sanchez I understand the level of dedication to her cause as I have seen it with those I describe.
    Being married to a Cuban and with our home in Cuba, my views and concerns are based upon my own experiences and built up knowledge of the reality of life for Cubans under the Castro family regime. As you know there is a much used expression that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Both Fidel and Raul Castro achieved such power. Fidel as President and the low lying Raul as Minister of the Military – where his talents were used to the full in developing GAESA. the control of which now lies with his son-in-law and operates over 80% of Cuba’s economy – Marino Murillo as Minister of Economics is but a sinecure. I have a God-daughter in Cuba aged four. I have a deep affection for her parents aged 28 and 30. My concerns are also about her future. Is she supposed to endure fifty six years of more of the same?
    I seek and support a Cuba where the people matter as individual human beings, not just as part of the collective. Where they can know and experience freedom something
    which under the Castro family regime is beyond reach.
    Comprende?

  • May 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm
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    …it’s all right Rich, I didn’t expect you to be able to address my comments.

  • May 25, 2015 at 9:20 am
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    If only José Antonio Echeverría (FEU leader) would have been successful in his 1957 attack on the presidential palace we would not have been sadled with The Castro and his communist cohorts, including Celia Sanchez. They brought nothing but ruin to my country.

    And it would be helpful to the conversation if you would stop including your little straw men in your posts. No one here, and I challenge you to show otherwise, has in any way defended any type of terrorist actions. Once again, it’s a tired narrative you place forth to distract from the reality that is Cuba.

  • May 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm
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    You’re confused Rich. I’m anti-CASTRO not anti-Cuban. There is a big difference. I believe that the Batista dictatorship was bad for Cuba and made conditions ripe for Castro’s revolution. Finally, my “end-game” is a free and democratic Cuba with an independent media and open multi-party elections….and no Castros!

  • May 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm
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    No one is more anti-Communist than I, Mr. MacDuff. I am a lifelong conservative Republican and the like-minded George W. Bush administration permitted me to go to Cuba to research Celia Sanchez, whom I consider the prime architect and decision-maker of both the Revolutionary War against Batista and Revolutionary Cuba, till she died of cancer on Jan. 11, 1980. I know you don’t agree with her supreme role but Castro’s best American biographer, Georgie Anne Geyer, does and so do the three best still-living Cuban historians: Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Marta Rojas, and Roberto Salas. In April of 1959, barely three months after she removed her guerrilla uniform, Sanchez took a reluctant Fidel on a 12-day visit to the U. S. because she had been promised he could meet with President Eisenhower to assure the U. S. of an upcoming democratic election that the U. S. could closely monitor. But VP Nixon, not Eisenhower, met with Fidel…and Nixon boldly predicted the U. S. and the Batistiano-Mafiosi remnants, many of whom — including Luis Posada Carriles, etc. — were already being trained at the then-secretive Army of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Nixon warning appalled Sanchez. When she returned to Cuba, she was determined to protect her revolution and she knew an admirer, Deputy Premier Mikoyan, had Khrushchev’s ear in the Soviet Union, the world’s only other nuclear superpower. The Batistiano-dominated narrative in the U. S. discounts the child-loving Sanchez because she is not as easily vilified as macho men, but it was the 99-pound doctor’s daughter who most reacted to Nixon. While I was in Cuba, because Fidel to this day worships Celia Sanchez above all others, I met Fidel Castro after he learned from his Media Center {Amando Brinis} that I had in my possession some letters Celia had written to a dear U. S. friend, an elderly black woman who left the letters in her daughter’s and my care. I had used the letters to get legal permission to visit Cuba from the Bush administration, and at the Media Center I had used them to explain my dire interest in researching Celia Sanchez. Before going to Cuba I had deeply researched Sanchez because of my fascination with the letters and, step by step, realized her enormous role in defeating Batista and sustaining revolutionary rule. Before going to Cuba, I had exchanged hundreds of emails with U. S. journalists who were Cuban experts, such as Tracey Eaton who met me at the Victoria Hotel in Havana my first day there. Marta Rojas, to this day an internationally respected journalist/author, worked closely with Celia Sanchez and the still-living and very notable Ms. Rojas helped me with my Sanchez research. Prior to going to Cuba, although I am a newshound, I had never heard about the terrorist bombing that downed the Cuban civilian airplane — Cubana Flight 455 — on Oct. 6, 1976, killing 73 people. I learned about it from researching Sanchez’s reaction to that historic event, which Americans are not supposed to even know about and, if they do, not to condemn it. In Cuba I met mothers and siblings of teenage athletes who died on that plane. As a democracy-loving American, the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 and its aftermath concerning the perpetrators, I believe, is among the numerous anti-democratic aspects of America’s Cuban policy that the entire world still resents and it is why I strongly believe America’s Cuban policy should involve the majority of Americans and not just be mandated by two generations of the remnants of the ousted U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. So, Mr. MacDuff, if you can justify Cubana Flight 455 and its aftermath, I promise I will be as anti-Cuban…err, anti-Castro…as you and the Miami-based Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress. {But if you disparage Celia Sanchez, I will take umbrage}.

  • May 24, 2015 at 4:05 pm
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    But in Cuba there is equality in that everyone is equally poor.

  • May 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm
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    You Mr. Haney are better at throwing insults than you are at objective considerations – rather like a schoolboy in the C stream.. I have on several occasions in the past written in these pages that in my view revolution in Cuba was necessary because of the conditions created by the Batista regime acting in cahoots with the Us and the US mafia. Yes, if you go into the archives you will find my comments. Equally, I have been consistent in opposing the embargo – although I favoured the blockade imposed by the US when Fidel Castro permitted nuclear weapons to be installed in Cuba and was in favour of using them.
    What I am opposed to is the imposition of “Socialismo” upon the citizens of Cuba by the Castro family regime in pursuit of retaing their power and control of the citizens. In order to do this, they established the Communist Party of Cuba, removed human rights, the right of free assembly, free media and even the right to criticize their rule . As an instrument to ensure that they achieved these objectives, Fidel Castro having on April 16 informed the Cuban people for the first time, that the revolution he had led was a communist one and then on 28 September, 1960 announced the formation of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution – the CDR. Fidel Castro declared the purpose of the CDR to be:
    “a collective system of revolutionary vigilance – so that everybody knows who lives on every block, what they do on every block, what relations they had with the tyranny (his description of the Batista regime and having already executed several hundred previous government employees wihout trial both in Havana under the supervision of Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and in Santiago under the supervision of his little brother Raul) in what activities they are involved and with whom they meet.'”
    The CDR has a President upon every block who has a duty to monitor the activities of every person on their block. An individual file is kept on each block resident including the internal activities of each household.
    By chance – at an airport in Cuba – I saw the now computerised file of my wife. It included a photograph and four pages of records including the date of our marriage. The CDR decides who gets a telephone which enable the state to monitor its usage. That should be relatively easy as the monopoly telegraphic system isoperated by ETECSA in which RAFINSA enjoys a 27% shareholding. (RAFINSA is an abbreviation for Raul and Fidel Castro and purchased the 27% shareholding from Italy for $706 million) The CDR being a security system similar in its purpose to the Stasi when East Germany was still in the Russian controlled USSR lies under the control of Alejandro Espin Castro son of Raul Castro Ruz.
    The views I express are NOT anti-CUBAN. They are pro-CUBAN but anti the Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba.
    I am in favour of freedom for the citizens of Cuba a beautiful country with many wonderful people. Living as I do, the majority of my time in Cuba, I am fully aware of the views of Cubans and the conditions they suffer.
    As a final comment, you have I note with interest a typically American view that your own country is: “the world’s strongest and best democracy.” You say this because of US policy towards Cuba for well over a century – or is it despite that policy?

  • May 24, 2015 at 8:40 am
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    You’re narrative is a tired one. US, Cuba relations are not a zero sum game. The choice is not Batista or Castro, it never was. The Cuban people had other options, and promises never kept.

    Batista has been gone these 55 years plus. (He fled with his cohorts to Santo Domingo and then Portugal). To continue to use him, and a mafia that no longer exists, as a boogeyman to cover up the failings of communist central planning and to justify the freedoms taken from my people is insulting.

    ….and Rich, it’s anti-Castro, not anti-Cuba. But that doesn’t fit your narrative does it?

  • May 23, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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    My guess is the timetable for Cuban and US embassies will be on or around the date Cuba is off the state sponsored terrorist list. I expect before the first of June so posturing is probably the game here.
    It’s all a pretty sad game and unfortunately the Cuban people continue to suffer. The system that took place in Cuba by Fidel Castro didn’t work and over fifty years now we still witness the results.

  • May 23, 2015 at 6:01 pm
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    It is amazing to me that within the bowels of the U. S. democracy there actually may be non-extremist Americans who don’t cringe at the flagrant anti-Cuban propaganda espoused by zealots such as Moses Patterson and Carlyle MacDuff, both of whom are quick to assail this article’s fair and balanced portrayal of the current diplomatic efforts by good Cubans like Ms. Vidal and good Americans like Ms. Jacobson. Patterson, speaking of the Castros and Obama, says, “Both sides are nuts.” Well, Moses, if you are not a nut I wonder what your end-game is and I assume it is a return of the Batistianos and Mafiosi to Cuba. MacDuff: “The Castros live in fear.” Such comments are meant to point out how brave the Batistianos-Mafiosi were on January 1, 1959 as they rushed to their getaway planes and ships…and then later at the Bay of Pigs; executing the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, etc. Such propaganda as this forum publishes from Patterson, MacDuff, etc., feeds the anti-democracy narrative that will derail the decent and sane diplomatic efforts of decent and sane people like Barack Obama and Pope Francis. {To this forum’s credit, it also publishes opposing views}. If Moses Patterson and Carlyle MacDuff are not “nuts” or “propagandists,” perhaps they will inform us all why a U.S.-backed Mafia-aligned dictatorship in Cuba was so great in the 1950s and why another U.S.-backed Mafia-aligned dictatorship in Cuba in 2015 will be so nice for the island’s 11 million innocent people now. Pope Francis, Mr. Obama, and decent people in this world are appalled and ashamed because of America’s failed and cruel Cuban policy, which gets excoriated in unanimity each October in the UN by America’s best friends in this troubled world. Cubans on the island of Cuba should predicate its future, not Batistiano and Mafiosi supporters hiding behind the skirts of the world’s strongest and richest nation, which also happens to be the world’s strongest and best democracy.

  • May 23, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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    The difference is that the poor of the US are In general as rich or richer than the richer folks in Cuba. (I exclude those directly involved in the Castro family regime who even Forbes recognises as rich).

  • May 23, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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    As a non-American I find your statement that Obama is a tool of the very wealthy who put him in office interesting as I had thought that the very wealthy would be Republicans?
    I couldn’t quite get the relationship to Cuba, but there is that usual confusion of the US folks thinking that Cubans only emigrate to the US and forgetting the rest of the world.

  • May 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm
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    You are living proof that even a broken clock is right twice a day. The WF/DF immigration policy has outlived it’s original purpose. It actually has helped the regime by providing a pressure – release valve for the disgruntled and disillusioned Cuban community. Had there been no such escape hatch for Cubans, who knows what they would have done out of frustration had they stayed in Cuba. As usual, overall, you are more wrong than right. Your Obama comments are just ignorant.

  • May 23, 2015 at 10:50 am
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    I agree totally with you, John! Thank you for saying this! It will be like every where else, the US included…the rich will get richer and the poor will stay poor.

  • May 23, 2015 at 10:30 am
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    I actually agree with you John. The wet-foot-dry-foot policy is simply being used by the current crop of Cubans to seek a better economic future in the US. Every Cuban I have met is completely disengaged (that is the kindest word I can use) from the political process. They know the political process in Cuba is a sham, and its precisely that way because if the regimes successful repression. But I am sick and tired of seeing Cubans gain residency in the US simply to return to the island to vacation and spend their money there.

    The rest of your statement is just the usual drivel. I’m sorry your views are so fringe.

  • May 23, 2015 at 9:11 am
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    A recent article I read in a south Florida paper called for an end to the wet-foot dry-foot policy in which the anti-Cuban author admitted that people in Cuba were coming to the USA NOT because of political oppression but because of poverty.
    The problem has become Cubans coming to the USA and making or stealing a pile of money and then RETURNING to Cuba .
    If political oppression were that big an issue, they would not do so in such large numbers .
    It is the hypocrites like you who have kept the embargo on Cuba for 55 years which has indeed succeeded in its aim of impoverishing the island and who instituted the Wet-foot, dry-foot clause to create the illusion that political oppression was really a serious Cuban problem.
    Now those hypocritical policies are coming back to bite you on the ass.
    Obama, FYI, is a tool of the very wealthy who put him in office.
    As such he cares not at all for the people of Cuba but entirely for the capitalism his bribers wish to enforce upon Cuba .
    It’s what he has been well paid to do and like all his predecessors since Eisenhower , what he will do.
    You are SOOOOOOOO naïve.

  • May 22, 2015 at 9:32 pm
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    The Castros live by fear. They FEAR if US diplomats have free movement, their shaky hold over the Cuban people will destabilize still further. By contrast, Obama is banking on HOPE. He hopes that by removing the US as the excuse the Castros have used for all their problems, they will be forced to change. Both sides are nuts, but at least Obama hopes to inspire the good in Cubans. The Castros work to stifle good and provoke fear in the Cuban people.

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