Cuba Agrees to U.S. Talks in New Sign of a Thaw

NYTimes:

SAN SALVADOR — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton brought signs of a thaw between the United States and Cuba to Latin America on Sunday, as she arrived in a region increasingly impatient to see the United States repair the half-century-old breach with Havana.

Cuba notified the Obama administration it was ready to resume talks on migration issues and to negotiate direct postal service between the countries for the first time in decades. It also agreed to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism, drug interdiction and hurricane relief efforts.

The decisions, conveyed to the State Department on Saturday in diplomatic notes, represent another step in the gradual unlocking of relations under the Obama administration, after nearly 50 years of a trade embargo that many in the hemisphere say has outlived its usefulness.

“Greater connections,” Mrs. Clinton said, “can lead to a better, freer future for the Cuban people. These talks are in the interest of the United States, and they are also in the interest of the Cuban people.”

Mrs. Clinton is in El Salvador for the presidential inauguration on Monday of the leftist leader Mauricio Funes. As one of his first acts, Mr. Funes has said he will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, leaving the United States as the only country in the Americas without such ties.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton plans to attend a meeting in Honduras of the Organization of American States. Members of the group want to make an even clearer break with the past by moving to readmit Cuba, which the organization expelled in 1962, citing its alliance with the Communist bloc. Mrs. Clinton has fended off calls for Cuba to be offered membership until Havana moves to accept the group’s democratic principles. On Sunday, she reiterated that the United States would oppose the efforts of several Latin American countries to immediately reinstate Cuba.

“We believe that membership in the O.A.S. comes with responsibility, and that we must all hold each other accountable,” she said. Cuba, for its part, has said it has no interest in returning to an organization that the official newspaper Granma referred to recently as “that decrepit old house of Washington.”

The measures proposed by Cuba, while incremental, came in response to overtures from the United States, and may blunt criticism that Washington is not moving fast enough. There had been speculation that Mrs. Clinton might skip the meeting in Honduras if there was no compromise on Cuba, but American officials signaled that she was now likely to go.

President Obama began his outreach to Cuba two months ago by lifting restrictions on travel by Cuban-Americans, and on the remittances those living in the United States send home.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration signaled its willingness to reopen a higher-level channel with Havana by proposing meetings on migration. Those efforts appear to have gained momentum after a summit meeting in April in Trinidad at which Mr. Obama told Latin leaders that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba.”

The migration talks date back to the 1990s, when Cuba and the United States tried to curtail a flood of refugees who fled the island, often on flimsy rafts. President George W. Bush halted them in 2003, largely suspending regular communication with Havana. He cited Cuba’s policy on exit visas, its treatment of repatriated Cubans and surveillance of dissidents.

Given the rise in human smuggling from Cuba, not only via the Florida Straits but elsewhere in the Caribbean, American officials said it was in the interest of both countries to resume the talks.

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One Response to Cuba Agrees to U.S. Talks in New Sign of a Thaw

  1. Pingback: Cuba Agrees to U.S. Talks in New Sign of a Thaw « particularcuba … | Cuba today

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