After more than five decades of diplomatic dissonance, Cuba and the United States are set to begin diplomatic talks with the aims of repairing international trade relations, reducing illegal immigration and boosting national morale for both countries.
Assistant Secretary of State, Roberta Jacobson will meet with Cuban Foreign Ministry head of U.S. relations, Josefina Vidal, Thursday to officially signal the beginning of the historic discussions to restore the two countries’ relations.
Both sides have their respective target issues on the agenda, but commonalities should prove more easily identifiable given the progress that has already been made by the United Departments of Treasury and Commerce. They have just issued regulatory amendments to the 61-year-old current sanctions, made effective January 16th. Recent amendments to the previous sanctions include: vastly expanded tourism permissions for U.S. citizens, accepted use of major U.S. credit and debit cards for financial transactions, increased family and periodic remittances to Cuban nationals and even facilitated entrepreneurial and business trainings.
According to Vidal, her country is urgently looking forward to tackling the United State’s “wet foot dry foot,” illegal immigration policy. Currently the policy allows for any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil to legally apply for residency within the United Sates. Vidal argued that the policy encourages illegal immigration, inspiring people to board “unseaworthy,” craft and go as far as to participate in human trafficking in the hopes of making it into the country. At one point, mostly during the 1960’s and 70’s, Cuban immigrants did make up 6 percent of those immigrating to the U.S. but the number has almost decreased by half with about 3 percent of those with Cuban ancestry coming into the U.S. during the 2000s.
Another item on Vidal’s agenda for the Cuba-US diplomatic talks will be the removal of her country’s name from the “State Sponsors of Terrorists” list. The nation was officially designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism on March 1, 1982 along with the likes of Iran, Syria and Sudan. This most likely due to the fact that the country was known for harboring members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty organization but had no hard evidence of providing “weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” according a 2013 State Department report on the matter.
As the United States is also expected to fully lift the famous trade embargo it has held for so long against its nautical neighbor, U.S. officials will take time to point out humanitarian issues affecting the country as well. Jacobson has a breakfast on the books with civil society leaders, activists and political objectors before her time visiting the country ends.
To that point, Cuban officials are said to want to discuss internal human rights issues in the United States as well. A senior Cuban official took care to point to the recent police activities in places like Ferguson, Missouri and New York.
These Cuba-US diplomatic talks could bring sweeping changes to the formerly estranged nations, whose political past has indeed been rocky at best. Currently most countries have some sort of diplomatic agreement with Cuba, with even more holding established embassies, but he United States is absent on that list. Diplomatically speaking, both countries have consistently slacked on prior efforts towards international union with each only holding small offices within the Swiss embassies located in Havana and Washington respectively. Many would argue that a good hashing out of their issues stands a chance in changing all that for the better.
By Cameron Woods