14ymedio, Madrid, 15 September 2023 — Senior officials from Cuba and the United States held a meeting on Monday in Washington, according to a statement released this Thursday, shortly after the renewal of the US embargo was announced. The meeting was attended by the Undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the State Department, Brian A. Nichols, and the Cuban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Fernández de Cossío.
The meeting discussed human rights, migration “and other issues of bilateral interest,” according to a spokesperson for the Department of State to the Nuevo Herald.
Fernández de Cossío, for his part, told Reuters that during those talks at the highest level – something unusual – some progress was made, but the differences on the major disputes between the two countries could not be reduced; i.e., the presence of Cuba on the list of states sponsoring terrorism and the embargo.
“We believe that it is unreasonable for the United States to continue to carry out a policy with which [Joe Biden] did not agree before taking office, which it knows is harming the Cuban population as a whole,” the official said.
The only agreements reached, according to Fernández de Cossío, involved minor issues. Migration and cooperation in law enforcement, health, science and technology were areas of understanding, but the regime came out unsatisfied. “We welcome them, but they are not the defining factor, the primary issue,” the official added.
Two days later, Joe Biden signed the annual extension of the embargo based on the “national interest” and relying on the Law on Trade with the Enemy, a position that the Cuban government, focused on the G-77 Summit plus China, has officially rejected with an unusual restraint. “With yesterday’s decision, Biden has followed the tradition of American presidents who, year after year, invoke an archaic 1917 law to justify abuses against the Cuban people,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez wrote on his X (Twitter) account.
However, that diplomatic tone has not been reflected in the official press, and the measure is branded as genocidal. “Joe Biden, who one day proclaimed ’to be on the side of the Cuban people’, has just once again ratified the genocide against that people. Continuator of hostility and accomplice of the crime, he stamped his signature for history,” writes Raúl Antonio Capote in Cuba’s State newspaper Granma.
The columnist adds that “the draconian act of war, designed to [make us] surrender out of hunger and plunge an entire people into misery” is “behind every missing medicine, the thermoelectric plant that stopped, the transport devoid of spare parts, [and] the social project that could not be executed.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, an official mentioned that the law includes exemptions and authorizations for exports of food, medicines and other humanitarian goods to Cuba. “President Biden remains committed to policies that boost the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people,” he told the press.
As for the other issue of interest to Havana, whether or not the designation of Cuba as a sponsor state of terrorism will be lifted, the official declared: “We have not made a determination that we can report today.”
Fernández de Cossío was in the United States this week to plan Miguel Díaz-Canel’s trip to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly, which will be held on September 18 and 19, a visit that has already mobilized the Cuban opposition residing in the country.
In addition, a day after his meeting with Nichols, he gave a talk about perspectives of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.
As reported by the Nuevo Herald, the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department also confirmed that they are aware of the situation of Cubans recruited to fight with Russia in the war against Ukraine. Havana’s support for Moscow is one more friction point that adds to the list of disputes between the Island and its neighboring country.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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