A senior Cuban official said on Friday a senior Cuban official said Cuba and the United States had taken a tentative step toward thawing relations and resuming joint efforts to resolve the issue. irregular migration problem.
There has been no major breakthrough, but the fact that the US is holding talks is essentially a sign that relations are likely to get better under President Joe Biden after falling into a deep freeze under President Joe Biden. predecessor, Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio said.
“They seem committed,” said Fernandez de Cossio. “They approved that they are committed to the agreements that were made.” “So we have no reason to trust what they are saying, but time will tell.”
The talks did not focus on the broader relationship between the United States and Cuba, but on restoring compliance with previous agreements to curb the often dangerous illegal migration from the island. this to the United States.
“These conversations have helped us both understand the nature and magnitude of the issue we’re facing,” the deputy secretary of state said in an interview with The Associated Press at his residence. Cuban ambassador in suburban Washington.
US officials want Cuba to resume flights of deported migrants, something the country stopped doing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Cuban authorities want the United States to follow through on a plan to restore consular services in Havana, so that people can once again get visas to come to the United States legally, as well as replace change other policies that they believe encourage illegal migration. Island.
“They asked us to extend the flights because that is an important deterrent,” he said. “We said we agreed that was an important deterrent. We explained that we needed to do it holistically and they understood this.”
It was a more detailed summary of the negotiations than what was provided by the US a day earlier. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the meeting “underlined our commitment to pursuing constructive discussions with the Cuban government where appropriate to advance United States interests.”
The talks come amid a marked deterioration in relations under President Donald Trump and amid a sharp increase in the number of Cubans trying to enter the United States along the southwestern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted Cubans more than 79,800 times between October and March — more than twice as much as all of 2021 and five times more than all of 2020. Overall, Team Week Border inspectors blocked migrants of all nationalities more than 209,000 times in March, a 22-year high monthly.
Cubans who crossed the U.S. border illegally face little risk of deportation or deportation under public health laws that have been used to deny asylum to thousands of migrants of all nationalities. other than to slow the spread of COVID-19.
When asked why so many Cubans fled their country, Fernandez de Cossio blamed the difficult economic conditions in his country and the common knowledge among Cubans that they would be granted asylum. and legally reside in the United States.
“Life for Cubans is very difficult. It’s a developing country like any other in the region,” he said. “They left for economic reasons, like most migrants around the world.”
Cubans are often granted asylum after they assert what US law calls a “credible fear” of persecution, often for political or religious reasons. The deputy foreign minister, unsurprisingly, is skeptical of such claims.
“When they get to the border, they claim that they have a credible fear of being bounced back,” he said. “But then they were accepted, and once they got residency, the first thing they did was get their passports and move them back to Cuba.”
Cuba wants the United States to stop granting ordinary asylum, end its economic embargo and take other measures it says encourage migration and restore consular operations so people can pass through the island. legally on a visitor visa.
Operations at the US embassy in Havana were severely disrupted starting in 2017 after several staff members developed unexplained health problems.
Cases of the so-called “Havana Syndrome” have become a major problem during the Trump administration, which has hampered the US-Cuba partnership initiated by former President Barack Obama.
Fernandez de Cossio said the Trump administration cut visas as part of “maximum pressure” on Cuba, contributing to the current irregular migration and he welcomed the Biden administration’s commitment in the resumption of visa operations.
“It needs to be done so that everyone in Cuba can see that there is a normal, legal way to immigrate to the United States, which has been lacking since 2017,” he said.