Mixed Messages from Biannual Migration Talks
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson led the US delegation to Havana
A Reuters' story from Havana suggests a solution is in sight for the Alan Gross case.
The senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified, said the Cuban government now expected Gross to be charged and tried. The official, who spoke following migration talks on Wednesday in Havana between U.S. and Cuban delegations, did not give a time frame.
"I am cautiously optimistic because of things we hear that that would be the case," the official said when asked if Gross would be released and sent home after being tried, adding that Cuban officials had made "encouraging noises." ....
A Western diplomat in Havana said on Thursday Gross would likely plead guilty at a trial in the next few weeks and then be sent back to the United States....
Roberta Jacobson, the second most senior U.S. diplomat for Latin America, visited Gross in jail on Thursday during her trip to Cuba for the migration talks.
Unfortunately the US delegation insisted on mixing the sweet apples of bilateral negotiation with the bitter lemons of interference in domestic politics.
But Cuba called Jacobson's meeting with opposition leaders an "open provocation" and evidence Washington still aimed to subvert the revolutionary government that took power in 1959.
"Before the migration talks, the Foreign Ministry made clear to the U.S. officials its rejection of any attempt to use the official visit to Cuba to carry out disrespectful or offensive activities against our country," the ministry said in a statement.
Hopefully, but another shadow play with each side reassuring its hard liners that it has not been seduced by the temptation of normal discourse.
Even State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley sounded a bit more flexible at his daily briefing although he is still hung up on Bush like preconditions for changes in U.S. policy,
We believe very strongly and continue to insist in our meetings with Cuban authorities this week that his case be resolved and he be released as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Do you see that as the main impediment to improvements right now on other issues with Cuba? I mean, I know you have a lot of issues with Cuba, but is that kind of the main thing that’s preventing you from cooperating on future areas of cooperation?
MR. CROWLEY: We have concern about the welfare of one of our citizens, but it is by no means the only concern that we have on Cuba. We want to see reform in Cuba. We want to see Cuba take aggressive steps to reform itself and to release political prisoners, open up political space, expand civil society, expand economic opportunity. There are lots of things that Cuba can do.
QUESTION: But that’s true of a lot of countries that you deal with --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, but I’m saying that as --
QUESTION: -- and there are a lot of countries that are holding U.S. citizens.
MR. CROWLEY: As we have said, that as Cuba reforms, then we will review our policies appropriately. But obviously, we wanted to see what happened what – Cuba needs to undertake fundamental reform first.
The question is for whom does Assistant Secretary Crowley speak? It is hard to believe that Secretary Clinton or the President are so locked into formulas of the past .
Given this progress, the White House should finally announce pending reforms in regulations restricting non-tourist travel.
After Alan Gross is tried, and if he is released for time served, will Washington acknowledge that interventionist USAID programs are against the law in Cuba and inappropriate if we seriously want a new relationship?
Will it address deeper problems like the absurd listing of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and the overlong imprisonment of the Cuban Five?
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Links and Resources
Wayne Smith at the Center for International Policy is organizing a timely and important conference in Washington on January 25th calling for immediate steps to improve relations with Cuba. For information contact Emily Rogers, CIP's Cuba program intern at firstname.lastname@example.org
The South Journal reports that Cubadebate has been censored by Google's Youtube. Cubadebate charges (in Spanish) that access has been blocked to its entire channel of 400 videos because of a copyright dispute on one widely copied segment. Update: a fuller account is available on the ElitesTV blog here.
Update: Text of Foreign Ministry statement on meeting with dissidents.
This billboard in Miami calling for freedom of the Cuban Five stayed up only 24 hours. Perhaps Mr. Crowley will venture an opinion on whether freedom in America is sufficient for normal relations.