USA-Cuba talks continue in spite of internal divisions and international pressure.
Since the arrival of Barack Obama to the White House, the U.S. and Cuba held unusual talks and meeting. The international expectations were that the U.S. could improve its relationship with the Castro´s regime.
Acting in that direction, the U.S. eased the travel of americans to Cuba and did not oppose to the re-admittance of Cuba to the Organization of American States OAS. After doing so, President Obama said that it was now Cuba´s turn to take concrete steps toward liberalization.
Since then, the Castro regime has not do anything in that direction. It seems that the cuban regime struggle with internal political divisions. The current President Raul Castro could be trying to show minimal gestures of a certain political aperture, like not closing the internet blogs driven by members of the cuban opposition nor violently suppress the “Downtown Havana” demonstrations of organizations like Ladies in White. On the other hand, there is a “hardcore” group of regime leaders, that try to avoid any deviatonism from castrist ortodoxy.
So, the evolution of the political process in Cuba is uncertain. One thing is clear, not everything is black and white in cuban politics, there are now some “growing” gray areas. In that sense, and in spite of what recently happened with the hunger strikers and the pressure of international media, the cuban government and the Obama Administration continue to maintain high level talks on different issues, from immigration talks to the situation in Haiti.
Corridors of the Haiti U.N. donors conference served to set up U.S.- Cuba high level contacts
Last wednesday, in New York, Cuba’s foreign minister held a meeting with a senior US official – in one of the highest level contacts between the two countries for years. US officials said the cuban foreign relations minister Bruno Rodriguez, on Wednesday met Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The talks were held at the UN donors forum on aid for Haiti in New York. A spokesman said the US did not agree “with Cuba on very much”, but they both agreed on the need for aid to Haiti. Cuba confirmed that the meeting took place. “We would hope that future exchanges of this nature are a possibility,” Havana said in a statement.
Details of the meeting have been made public. Cuba issued a communique from the United Nations on Wednesday, confirming the meeting between Mills and Rodriguez and saying it hoped to see more such dialogue.
The United States has spearheaded efforts to rebuild Haiti following the Jan. 12 temblor, which killed between 217,000 and 300,000 people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins. Cuba, which boasts one of the region’s best health sectors, has also been a major player in the recovery effort. Nearly 800 Cuban doctors have worked in Haiti since the quake, performing 7,000 operations. They have helped deliver 1,400 babies and immunized more than 100,000 people. Hundreds of other doctors trained in Cuba have joined their effort, which builds on a mission that Cuba had run in Haiti long before the quake.
The communist government has also allowed American relief planes destined for Haiti to overfly Cuban territory, greatly shortening the trip from American soil.
Mills “did meet with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez “to ensure that our assistance is consistent with the priorities established by the Haitian government,” Mr. Philip Crowley from the State Dept (Press) informed. “Cuba has volunteered significant assistance in the health sector and they want to make sure that this assistance is implemented in a coordinated fashion. It was a specific meeting about Cuba’s support that they wish to provide.”
Crowley said Mills also brought up the case of Alan P. Gross, a 60-year-old U.S. government contractor arrested in Havana on Dec. 3 on suspicion of spying.
Gross’s company (Bethesda, Maryland) says he was distributing communications equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community, not to dissidents. Nonetheless, such equipment is tightly controlled by the cuban government. Cuba has so far not charged him.
Last september Ms Williams, from the State Dept/Western Hemisphere affairs, was part of a US delegation that went to Havana to discuss the possible resumption of direct postal services between the two nations. She spend there in Havana a whole week. With the implied consent of castrist authorities, she also held separate meetings with a number of dissidents on the island. The two governments are also holding direct talks on immigration.