Saturday, May 18, 2024

Cuba Agrees to Resume Immigration Talks With U.S.

Cuba has agreed to restart talks with the United States on immigration and demonstrated willingness to cooperate on issues including terrorism, drug trafficking, and even mail service.

The news was announced as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a three-day trip to Latin America, where she will face pressures to ease the U.S. policy that currently isolates Cuba.

Clinton said, “We’ve made more progress in four months than has been made in a number of years and we need to work together to continue that kind of progress, keeping in mind the legitimate aspirations and the human rights of the people of Cuba.”

Obama has promised a “new beginning” with Cuba, and he has started by lifting restrictions on visits by Cuban Americans to the island and allowing U.S. telecommunications firms to operate there.

Jorge Bolaños of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington formally accepted the U.S.’s offer to restart talks on legal immigration that were stopped in 2003 by the Bush administration.

The talks are not expected to modify the number of Cubans who legally immigrate each year to the United States—about 20,000 but will grapple with new policies in U.S.-Cuba relations.

In addition, Bolaños also expressed interest in an earlier U.S. proposal to work on resuming direct mail service between the countries, which has not existed for decades. The Cuban government also suggested talks on drug trafficking and terrorism, and on working with the United States on disaster preparation. The countries currently cooperate informally to catch drug smugglers.

An anonymous State Department official said the discussions would also entail the problem of Cubans trying to enter illegally .

The administration is moving cautiously as Obama and Clinton have both said that the United States will not lift its economic embargo until President Raúl Castro’s government makes democratic reforms.

Clinton is scheduled to attend a meeting Tuesday in Honduras where many foreign ministers have been considering readmitting Cuba into the Organization of American States. The issue of Cuba’s participation in the OAS has put the U.S. government on the spot, especially after Obama pledged at a regional summit in Trinidad and Tobago in April that he would seek “an equal partnership” with Latin American leaders rather than dictating to them.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere applauded the announcement yet said that there needs to be more change, such as releasing political prisoners.

The possibility of readmitting Cuba to the OAS has alarmed Cuban American groups and some lawmakers. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), has threatened to cut off the U.S. contribution to the OAS — about 60 percent of its budget. Last week, three former Bush administration officials who helped shape Latin America policy — ambassadors Lino Gutierrez, Roger F. Noriega and Otto J. Reich — appealed to Clinton not to give in.


Washington Post