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    US, Cuba hold migration talks in Washington

    Posted on Wednesday, 07.09.14

    US, Cuba hold migration talks in Washington

    HAVANA — U.S. and Cuban officials discussed efforts to combat illegal
    migration, human smuggling and migratory document fraud in Washington on
    Wednesday, a rare moment of dialogue between countries that cut ties
    more than five decades ago.

    The latest round of biannual migration talks was carried out in a
    “respectful environment,” Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
    It added that Havana was pleased the two nations agreed in early July to
    enforce a search-and-rescue protocol for distressed persons on the high

    There were also points of contention. Cuba aired concerns about banking
    difficulties for its diplomatic missions in the United States that have
    led it to cut consular services at the two outposts. It also complained
    again about policies letting Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil stay and
    apply for residency after a year.

    “The Cuban delegation insisted that alien smuggling and illegal
    migration would not be eradicated, nor could there be a legal, safe and
    orderly migration between the two countries, as long as the ‘wet
    foot/dry foot’ policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act remain in force,” the
    statement said.

    The talks are supposed to be held every six months to monitor the
    implementation of 1990s migration accords, and often touch on other
    areas of mutual concern.

    They were suspended in 2011, the same year Cuba sentenced U.S.
    government development subcontractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison
    after he was detained with restricted communications equipment while
    working to set up Internet networks for Jewish groups on the island.

    Talks resumed two years later, along with separate discussions on
    re-establishing direct mail service between the two countries.

    A U.S. State Department statement called the talks routine and said they
    did not indicate a change in policy toward Cuba. It added that they were
    consistent with U.S. interest in ensuring safe, legal and orderly
    migration between the countries, and an opportunity to talk about things
    such as civil liberties.

    “In our interactions with the Cubans, the United States also regularly
    raises our concerns about the continued detention of Alan Gross, the
    poor state of human rights in Cuba and fugitives from U.S. justice,” the
    statement said.

    Havana has said it is willing to talk about Gross’ case and any other
    matter, but it also wants to negotiate the fate of three Cuban
    intelligence agents serving long prison terms in the United States.

    The U.S. statement said the delegations at the one-day migration talks
    were headed by Alex Lee, deputy assistant secretary at the State
    Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Josefina Vidal,
    the top official for North American affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry.

    U.S.-Cuba relations were severed in 1961 at the height of Cold War
    tensions. Since the late 1970s, however, Washington and Havana have
    maintained diplomatic missions in each other’s capitals that are
    technically “interests sections” of the respective Swiss embassies.

    The U.S. economic and financial embargo against Cuba has been in effect
    since 1962.

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