HAVANA TIMES — The United States and Cuba resume talks on migratory issues today in Washington interrupted during the past two years, reported dpa news.
The talks are to be held “as scheduled”, according to the official US source.
Although the talks were announced last month for today, there actually taking place had been questioned due to the tensions following the seizure of a North Korean ship in Panama carrying “obsolete weapons” from Cuba to North Korea, as recognized by Havana on Tuesday night.
According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, they are “obsolete” Soviet-made “defensive weapons” from the mid 20th century which were to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba.
As of yesterday, voices increased in Washington demanding the immediate suspension of the migration talks following this incident, revealed on Tuesday by President of Panama, Ricardo Marinelli.
Washington however has thus far shown reserve about the possibility that the Cuban weapons intercepted being a violation of UN resolutions prohibiting weapons trade with North Korea.
“We have to learn more about what happened, where and what exactly was on the boat, so we reserve judgment until we have made a determination in that regard,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
“Here are two rogue regimes trying to circumvent the sanctions and thinking they can hide missile parts in sugar containers,” said Cuban-American congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told a Miami radio station.
The lawmaker, a renowned anti-Castro government activist, had already on Tuesday called for “immediate” suspension of the immigration talks “until (Cuba) give clear and consistent answers about this incident.”
“The fact that missile equipment was found when they were transported from Cuba to North Korea reaffirms the dangerous threats facing our nation by the nefarious activities of these two rogue regimes,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
A similar view was expressed by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.
“They have helped people who wish to harm the United States, and this is just another example,” he told the same local station.
Fellow Republican Sen. Bob Menendez, also told the Univision network Tuesday night that the incident with North Korean ship “should open the eyes of the Obama administration that Cuba does not have good will toward the United States.”
Both Ros-Lehtinen and Menendez are part of the group of Cuban-American legislators who are often very critical of any gesture from the White House to Havana.
The Obama administration has emphasized at all times that such meetings “do not represent a significant change in US policy toward Cuba”. The State Department has insisted that both today’s migration talks and those held in June on the resumption of bilateral direct mail do not reflect a change in US policy.
However, the fact that Washington and Havana have some sort of high-level official contact is usually followed with the utmost attention, for the major implications they may have on a gesture of rapprochement between the two governments at odds for more than half a century.
The last round of migration talks, the fourth, took place in January 2011 in Havana. After six years of hiatus, Cuba and the United States had resumed these contacts after the arrival of Obama to the White House in 2009.
The talks in 2011, however, were tarnished by the case of US agent Alan Gross, whose imprisonment in Havana has become in recent years the main obstacle to a rapprochement between the island and Washington, according to the State Department.
Cuba has been looking for a new immigration agreement with the United States. The last one was signed in 1994 following the “rafters crisis,” when thousands of Cubans reached American shores aboard rickety boats.
Since then, the US agreed to grant 20,000 visas a year to Cubans to facilitate an orderly exit from the island, while Cuba accepted back without reprisals those rafters that are returned by the US authorities.
“Continuing to ensure safe migration between Cuba and the United States is consistent with our interest in promoting greater freedoms and a growing respect for human rights in Cuba,” justified the State Department last month when the new immigration meeting was announced.