Top Cuba diplomat: Obama trip positive, created momentum
MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MAY 16, 2016 08:14 PM
HAVANA – President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba advanced the
normalization of relations between the Cold War foes and created
momentum for more co-operation on agriculture, medicine and law
enforcement, Cuba’s top diplomat on U.S. affairs said Monday.
Speaking after a meeting with U.S. officials in Havana, Director General
of U.S. Affairs Josefina Vidal said President Raul Castro had seen his
meeting with Obama as producing “positive results.”
Her portrayal contrasted with more negative characterizations of the
visit, including those of former President Fidel Castro and Foreign
Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who described Obama’s trip as an “attack” on
Cuba’s traditions and values.
Vidal said she and U.S. diplomats had agreed upon an agenda for Obama’s
remaining months in office that would include visits by high-level U.S.
agriculture, health and security officials.
She said Obama’s visit, which included a forum with private business
owners and a speech calling on the Cuban people to look toward a better
future, would help both sides accomplish that agenda.
“We believe the visit was an additional step forward in the process of
moving toward an improvement in relations, and that it can serve to add
momentum to advance in this process, which is in both nations’
interest,” she said. “That’s the opinion that President Raul Castro
shared during his address to the press during Obama’s visit.”
Commenting on Monday’s meeting, The U.S. State Department said that
“both governments recognized significant steps made toward greater
co-operation in environmental protection, civil aviation, direct mail,
maritime and port security, health, agriculture, educational and
cultural exchanges.” It said the two sides also discussed future
meetings on human rights and claims for compensation by American
citizens and firms whose property was confiscated in Cuba’s 1959 revolution.
Vidal praised a series of agreements struck directly with the U.S.
government on topics like environmental co-operation, direct postal
service and commercial flights, but said the continuing U.S. trade
embargo on Cuba had made progress on business ties more difficult.
Foreign investors agree the embargo is the main obstacle to doing
business in Cuba. But they increasingly point to the communist
government’s slow-moving bureaucracy and opaque decision-making as
reasons investment on the island is lagging despite a huge surge of
interest since the December2014 declaration of detente with the U.S.
The two countries appear to be moving toward greater co-operation on law
enforcement in coming months. Cuban-born Deputy Homeland Security
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was meeting in Havana on Tuesday with his
counterparts in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior for talks on
co-operation against drug trafficking, illegal migration and
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