During Migratory Talks in Washington D.C.
Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban and US representatives held a new round of migratory talks in Washington on Wednesday, reestablished on a quarterly basis in 2009, the US State Department has confirmed.
Though the central issue to be tackled during these talks is the fulfillment of the migratory agreements, a State Department spokesperson declared that the US delegation will express its concerns over the situation of contractor Alan Gross, the poor state of human rights in Cuba and the existence of fugitives from US justice who have taken refuge in Cuba.
It is no accident that, in its declarations concerning the resumption of these talks, the State Department should make mention of such issues as human rights and fugitives from US justice.
The case of Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba, is the main source of friction between the two countries and has hindered progress towards more favorable bilateral relations under the Obama administration.
As for fugitives from US justice, the usual list of criminals sought by the FBI recently swelled with hundreds of individuals implicated in the Medicare fraud and other crimes who fled to the island.
Cuba’s delegation is headed by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, head of the United States Office of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX). In May, Vidal paid an unexpected visit to Washington and met with the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.
The US delegation is headed by the Deputy Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Alex Lee.
“The scheduled talks do not represent a change in US policy towards Cuba and are of a routine nature,” said a State Department spokesperson. “Continuing to ensure safe, legal and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States is in keeping with our interests of promoting greater freedom and greater respect towards human rights in Cuba.”
During Vidal’s visit in May, the two concurred that the Cuban and US governments “have publicly expressed their interest in normalizing relations through a gradual process, though no concrete steps have been seen for the moment.” The issues addressed by the two officials was not revealed on that occasion.
In the weeks that followed the meeting, however, tensions again began to characterize bilateral relations, after Washington kept Cuba on its annual list of nations that sponsor terrorism and the list of 23 countries with the most severe problems in terms of the trafficking of persons.