In Cuba-U.S. talks, the list of disagreements is still long
By TRACY WILKINSON January 31, 2015
– In the Cuba-U.S. talks, the moods and political will may have changed,
but the key issues have not
– The U.S. and Cuba remain far apart on many issues: Guantanamo, human
rights, embassies, the embargo
For all the talk about historic talks, the list of disagreements between
Cuba and the United States, which could trip up renewed ties after the
first round of official negotiations this month, looks a lot like it has
for many years.
The moods and political will on both sides of the Florida Straits may
have changed, but key issues have not, at least not in substantial ways.
And where there is significant agreement, it is on topics that were
already pretty much resolved.
Cuban President Raul Castro, in a regional meeting this week in Costa
Rica, emphasized the line between renewing diplomatic relations and the
“normalization” of relations, a much broader arrangement where the
disagreements are most stark.
U.S.-Cuba talks focus on embassies, diplomatic restrictions
Castro continues to insist that detente should not imply any changes in
Cuba’s “domestic affairs,” while the Obama administration continues to
insist its ultimate goal is changing Cuba’s domestic affairs.
“The government of the Republic of Cuba will only accept what it feels
it can control,” said John S. Kavulich, senior policy advisor for the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The initiatives proposed by
President Obama are designed to tear at the social fabric of the
Republic of Cuba.”
Here are some of the outstanding issues:
Embassies. Both countries seem determined to open embassies in each
other’s capital, replacing the interests sections that have handled
diplomatic affairs for the last few decades. Both countries want travel
restrictions on their diplomats removed. Cuban diplomats can’t venture
far from Washington, and U.S. officials can’t leave Havana without
permission. Cuba remains wary about American diplomats being allowed to
travel the nation freely, possibly influencing antigovernment sentiment.
Havana wants a promise to end U.S. efforts to drum up dissidence against
the Castro government; the U.S. has refused.
Obama’s renewed push to close Guantanamo prison is seen as promising
Embargo. This is the foremost demand by Cuba: an end to the embargo,
imposed during the Eisenhower administration, that forbids most American
business, private and individual dealings with Cuba. The Obama
administration, and others before it, lifted numerous restrictions that
eased travel and some trade. But an absolute removal of the embargo must
be ordered by Congress. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S.
lawmakers introduced legislation that would remove all travel
restrictions on American citizens going to Cuba, seen as a first step in
whittling away the embargo.
Terrorism. Cuba is also demanding it be removed from the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism. This seems easier for the Obama
administration to do, and the president has ordered the State Department
to review the matter.
Fugitives. The U.S. is reiterating its long-standing demand for the
return of several American fugitives who fled to Cuba in the 1970s and
’80s, lured by the safe haven and the vision of a leftist utopia. Most
famous, and most in demand, is Joanne Chesimard, a former Black Panther
and member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted in the 1977
killing of a New Jersey state trooper. She was sentenced to life in
prison but escaped and fled to Cuba, where she is now known as Assata
Shakur. Cuba continues to defend its policy of granting asylum to
criminals it considers victims of persecution in other nations. And it
counters with its own insistence that the U.S. hand over Luis Posada
Carriles,wanted by Cuba in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban
airliner that killed 73 people.
Human rights and dissidents. The talks this month highlighted the
continued differences over human rights. Cuba bristles at the suggestion
that Washington can take a higher moral road when it comes to human
rights. Cuba also wants U.S. officials to stop meeting with the island’s
small dissident community and to end anti-Castro propaganda. The U.S.
Migration. Although there is much general agreement on eased travel
between the two countries and family reunification, Cuba insists on an
end to the special legal status that the U.S. grants Cuban immigrants.
The so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy — Cubans who reach American
shores are allowed to remain, but those intercepted at sea are not —
lures Cubans to the U.S. and is largely responsible for a brain drain,
Cuba argues. U.S. negotiators in Havana said the policy would not change.
Guantanamo. Although it didn’t come up publicly in this month’s talks,
Cuba says it wants the U.S. to close its naval base at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, and return the land to the Cuban government. Obama has said he
wants to close the U.S. prison there, but has not commented on the
Reparations and compensation. Both countries want monetary compensation
— for different reasons. On the U.S. list are billions of dollars in
private and commercial properties confiscated by the Cuban government
after the 1959 revolution. In his speech this week, Castro said the U.S.
owed unspecified reparations to Cuba for damage caused by the embargo.
Source: In Cuba-U.S. talks, the list of disagreements is still long – LA