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Human rights will be at the center of U.S. diplomatic discussions in Havana

will be at the center of U.S. diplomatic discussions in Havana
01/19/2015 2:04 PM 01/19/2015 7:13 PM

Human rights and democracy will be at the center of talks when
delegations from the United States and Cuba gather in Havana this week
as part of continuing negotiations toward full diplomatic relations, a
high-ranking U.S. official said Monday.

The two-day meeting on Wednesday and Thursday will be at the convention
center in Havana known in Spanish as the Palacio de Convenciones.

The U.S. delegation will be led by Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary
of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. She will be joined by Edward
Alex Lee, the Department of State’s assistant secretary of the Bureau
for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Leading talks for Cuba is Josefina
Vidal, head of North American affairs for Cuba’s foreign ministry.

Beyond the televised declarations of Cuba leader Raúl Castro at the
closing session of Cuba’s National Assembly in December, where he
reiterated his willingness to have a dialogue “on all issues” with the
United States, Havana has said little about the new measures announced
by Barack Obama or the upcoming round of negotiations.

U.S. eases Cuba but don’t book your Spring Break just yet
Following the start of new regulations last week that softens travel and
trade rules, the official Cuban press published a single press release,
originally written by the National Information Agency (AIN). It noted
that “the economic, commercial and financial blockade remains,” and an
official warned that although the U.S. had “silk gloves, a
death sentence toward the island still stands, which forces David to be
more astute than ever in the face of Goliath.”

The U.S. official, who spoke with some reporters on “background” via a
teleconference on the condition of not being named, said the Obama
administration is aware of the recent arrests of Cuban activists,
dissidents and artist Tania , who attempted to organize an open
mic performance at the Plaza of the Revolution. The official they had
“no illusions” about Castro’s government, “and therefore the promotion
of human rights and democracy will be at the center of our policy.”

The agenda for the meeting has modest goals, focusing primarily on the
reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, lifting travel restrictions
imposed on U.S. diplomats and giving unrestricted access to Cubans who
want to visit the embassy. Currently, the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana serves as a consular office.

The State Department official discarded possible changes to the Cuban
Adjustment Act or current policy on the deportation of Cubans. Asked if
the U.S. will seek the return of U.S. fugitives in Cuba, including
Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of killing a state trooper New
Jersey, the official said those topics were part of regularly scheduled
migration talks. But that request has been denied by Cuba.

The official also confirmed that the U.S. delegation has every intention
to meet with Cuban dissidents, some of whom have criticized the
negotiations underway.

“We will take into account each and every one of their opinions, which
have the authenticity of those living on the island,” the official said.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter @ngameztorres

Source: Human rights will be at the center of U.S. diplomatic
discussions in Havana | The Miami Herald –

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