Cuba and US take tentative step with talks on migration

Apr 22, 2022, 3:39 AM | Updated: Apr 23, 2022, 5:44 am
Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio is interviewed by The Associated Press on ...

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio is interviewed by The Associated Press on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Washington. Cuba and the United States took a tentative step toward unthawing relations and resuming joint efforts to address irregular migration, the senior Cuban official said following the highest-level talks between the two countries in four years. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba and the United States took a tentative step toward thawing relations and resuming joint efforts to address irregular migration, a senior Cuban official said following the highest-level talks between the two countries in four years.

There were no major breakthroughs, but the mere fact that the U.S. was holding substantive talks was a sign relations might be looking better under President Joe Biden after going into deep freeze under his predecessor, Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio said Friday.

“They seem committed. They ratified that they are committed to the agreements in place,” Fernandez de Cossio said. “So we have no reason to mistrust what they’re saying, but time will tell.”

The talks did not focus on broader U.S.-Cuba relations but more narrowly on restoring adherence to previous agreements that were intended to curtail the often-dangerous irregular migration from the island to the United States.

“These talks helped both of us to understand the nature and the magnitude of the problem we’re facing,” the deputy foreign minister said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Cuban ambassador’s residence outside Washington.

U.S. officials want Cuba to resume taking back flights of deported migrants, which it stopped doing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuban authorities, meanwhile, want to see the U.S. follow through on its plan to restore consular services in Havana, so people can once again get visas to legally come to the United States, as well as change other policies that it believes encourage irregular migration from the island.

“They asked us to renew the flights because it was an important element of deterrence,” he said. “We said we agree that is an important element of deterrence. We explained that we needed to do in an integral manner, and they understood this.”

It was a more detailed rundown of the talks than what was provided by the U.S. a day earlier. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the meeting “underscores our commitment to pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba where appropriate to advance U.S. interests.”

The talks take place against the backdrop of relations that sharply deteriorated under President Donald Trump and amid a sharp increase in the number of Cubans seeking to enter the U.S. along the Southwest border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Cubans more than 79,800 times from October through March — more than double all of 2021 and five times more than all of 2020. Overall, the Border Patrol stopped migrants of all nationalities more than 209,000 times in March, the highest monthly mark in 22 years.

Cubans who cross the U.S. border illegally face little risk of being deported or expelled under a public health law that has been used to deny asylum to thousands of migrants of other nationalities on the grounds of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Asked why so many Cubans are fleeing their country, Fernandez de Cossio blamed tough economic conditions in his country and widespread knowledge among Cubans that they will be granted asylum and legal residency in the U.S.

“Life is difficult for Cubans. It’s a developing country like any other country in the region,” he said. “They leave for economic reasons, like most migrants around the world.”

Cubans are often granted asylum after they assert what’s known under U.S. law as “credible fear” of persecution, typically for political or religious reasons. The deputy foreign minister is, not surprisingly, skeptical of such claims.

“When they reach the border, they claim that they have a credible fear if they if they are returned,” he said. “But then they’re accepted, and once they get residence the first thing they do is get a passport and move back to Cuba.”

Cuba wants the U.S. to stop routinely granting asylum, end the economic embargo and take other measures that it says encourage migration and to restore consular activities so people can legally travel back and forth from the island with visitor visas.

Operations at the U.S. embassy in Havana were severely curtailed beginning in 2017 after the emergence of unexplained health problems among some employees.

Cases of what became known as “Havana Syndrome” became a major issue during the Trump administration, which rolled back the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba that had been initiated by former President Barack Obama.

Fernandez de Cossio said the Trump administration curtailed visas as part of its “maximum pressure” against Cuba, contributing to the irregular migration occurring now and he welcomed the Biden administration’s commitment to restore visa operations.

“It needs to be done so that people in Cuba can find that there’s a legal normal way to migrate to the United States, which has been lacking since 2017,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, ...
Associated Press

Puerto Ricans await aid, fret about post-hurricane recovery

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico (AP) — City worker Carmen Medina walked purposefully through the working-class community of Tranquility Village under a brutal sun, with clipboard, survey forms and pen in hand — part of a small army of officials trying to gauge the scope of disaster caused by Hurricane Fiona’s strike on Puerto Rico. She […]
1 day ago
Models wear creations as part of the Benetton women's Spring Summer 2023 collection presented in Mi...
Associated Press

Benetton, Ferrari close Milan Fashion Week with bold moves

MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week closed Sunday after five days of mostly womenswear previews that celebrated diversity and renewal, with more designers of color represented than ever and a host of new talent making their debuts at major fashion houses. The Italian fashion council was also putting the spotlight on sustainability with the return […]
1 day ago
This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Harry Styles, left, and Florence Pugh in a ...
Associated Press

‘Don’t Worry Darling’ shrugs off drama, opening with $19.2M

After off-screen drama threatened to consume Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” the Warner Bros. release opened No. 1 at the box office, debuting with $19.2 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. Starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, “Don’t Worry Darling” was engulfed by a storm of controversies that revolved around everything from […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

‘Eco-warrior” and Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman dies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Dave Foreman, a self-proclaimed eco-warrior who was a prominent member of the radical environmentalism movement and a co-founder of Earth First!, has died. He was 74. The New Mexico-based Rewilding Institute, which Foreman founded as a think tank to develop long-term land conservation plans, said on its website that he died […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Heavy crane topples onto downtown Oklahoma City building

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 60-ton crane being used to remove a video display board from a downtown Oklahoma City building toppled onto the building that houses several news offices, officials said. The crane’s operator suffered minor injuries in the Saturday afternoon accident. Two other men working in the bucket of a small crane and […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

San Diego County to pay $1.35M over 2018 in-custody death

SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County and other defendants have agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the mother of a Mexican citizen who died after sheriff’s deputies arrested him in 2018, officials said. The lawsuit filed by Dolores Rosales, of Tijuana, alleged deputies used excessive force when they took […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Cuba and US take tentative step with talks on migration