Mixed Messages from Obama & Havana

By Patricia Grogg

Cuba photo by Elio Delgado
Cuba photo by Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, Oct 12   (IPS)  – While the Cuban government has intensified its protests against the U.S. embargo, typically hostile signals between the two nations have been mixed with hints of a more relaxed tone since U.S. President Barack Obama took office.

According to Havana, in spite of the less hostile climate, Washington is still strictly implementing the nearly half-century old embargo and has not taken any action whatsoever to dismantle its complex web of laws and regulations.

But at the same time, the government of Cuban President Raul Castro has described the conversations held in New York in July on migration issues, and on Sept. 17 in the Cuban capital on the eventual reinstatement of direct postal services, as respectful and useful.

The meeting in Havana was attended by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Bisa Williams, who then stayed on for several days, met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez and went to the Sept. 20 Peace Without Borders concert organized by Colombian pop star Juanes.

Williams, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba in decades, also toured an area of Pinar del Río province, 160 km west of Havana, which was heavily damaged by the 2008 hurricanes, and met with several Cuban dissidents.

On the same day that the U.S. State Department broke its silence about the scope of Williams’ visit, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana hosted a reception to introduce the new head of the public affairs section at the diplomat