Photo: USA and Cuba
The United States and Cuba on Wednesday are holding here a new round of talks aimed at preventing illegal migration and facilitating regular migration flows.
The encounter in Washington is the third round since the dialogue resumed in July 2013 after a hiatus of 2 1/2 years.
“The scheduled talks do not represent a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba and are of a routine nature,” a State Department official told Efe, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Just as in the last meeting, the Cuban delegation is headed by the director of the foreign ministry’s U.S. desk, Josefina Vidal, while Assistant Secretary of State Edward Alex Lee is representing Washington.
The basis for bilateral migration dialogue has its roots in the 1994 and 1995 agreements, whereby the United States and Cuba committed themselves to keep immigration “safe, legal and orderly” and to regularly review the implementation of those pacts.
Estimates are that of the two million Cubans living abroad, 1.5 million reside in the United States.
In the earlier rounds of the dialogue, the United States took advantage of the talks to ask for the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who in 2009 was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the island for “subversive activities” against the Cuban state.
It is anticipated that the U.S. delegation will raise the Gross case on this occasion, too, along with “the poor state of human rights in Cuba,” the State Department official said.
For its part, Cuba regularly uses the talks to ask Washington to put an end to its so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy establishing that Cubans who manage to make it to dry land in the United States may remain in the country while those intercepted offshore are returned to the communist island.
In 1994, the United States and Cuba reached a migration accord after a wave of rafters left Cuba and U.S. patrols intercepted at sea more than 30,000 Cubans fleeing their country on homemade rafts and trying to make it to Florida.