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    Is Cuba Ready to Negotiate with the USA?

    Is Cuba Ready to Negotiate with the USA?
    November 19, 2014
    Fernando Ravsberg*

    HAVANA TIMES — The governments of Cuba and the United States have
    maintained a series of negotiations in different areas of common
    interest for a number of years now. The two countries refer to such
    talks as “technical” in nature, but they could well represent the
    preamble of deeper and more political negotiations.

    The issues discussed till now are related to ecological disasters,
    immigration, rescue and salvage operations, aviation safety, postal
    services, seismology and inter-military relations at the Guantanamo
    Naval Base. Curiously, the United States has not wanted to include the
    fight against drug trafficking on the agenda.

    Agreements that have had positive results have been reached in some of
    these areas. Talks surrounding aviation safety, for instance, allowed
    for satisfactory bilateral coordination during an incident involving a
    US light plane that crossed Cuban airspace and crashed in Jamaica in
    September.

    The essential issues behind the conflict – the embargo, the nationalized
    US properties, the financing given Cuba’s opposition, human rights, the
    inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, those
    imprisoned in the two countries and the Guantanamo Base – continue to go
    unaddressed.

    Cuba’s highest authorities have repeatedly told the United States they
    are willing to sit down and negotiate any issue Washington cares to lay
    on the table, provided talks are based on three basic principles: such
    conversations must be undertaken as equals, in acknowledgement of the
    sovereignty of States, without any meddling in the internal affairs of
    the other.

    Cuban analysts insist that these principles “are set in Stone” and that
    they are recognized by the UN, adding that, on previous occasions, the
    United States found it hard to sit down and negotiate on equal footing
    with a small island in its “backyard” that has very few resources and a
    mere 11 million inhabitants.

    What’s more, when Havana insists on talks “among equals”, it also means
    to say that, on such controversial issues as human rights, it will not
    only debate about Cuban dissidents but also about the situation in the
    United States, extra-judicial detentions, torture, selective murder and
    police violence.

    Some previous attempts at a rapprochement failed because Cuba did not
    accept the demands made by the United States. At different points in
    history, the latter demanded the suspension of support for revolutionary
    movements in Latin America, the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Africa,
    the breaking of ties with the Soviet Union and a change in its political
    system as a condition for negotiations.

    One of the most urgent issues the two countries face right now are the
    prison sentences of 3 Cuban agents in the United States and a US agent
    in Cuba. While Washington calls for the unconditional release of Alan
    Gross, Havana proposes a “humanitarian solution”: an exchange that will
    benefit the four detainees.

    The White House insists Cuba ought to unilaterally release Alan Gross
    because his detention is the main obstacle to a bilateral rapprochement.
    In 2010, the United States even terminated all contracts with the island
    to pressure Havana, resuming talks 2 years later.

    For the Cuban government, the release of its 3 agents – considered
    heroes on the island – is also a very sensitive issue that it would no
    doubt put on the agenda. It does not, however, appear to be an obstacle
    to negotiate other issues, if its counterpart requested this previously.

    No one in Cuba knows for certain whether Obama will take any decisive
    steps in this connection in what remains of his term in office, but many
    believe there have never been better conditions for such a step – not
    even the Carter administration had a better opportunity when diplomatic
    headquarters were opened in the two countries and maritime and fishing
    agreements were signed.

    During the Obama presidency, there have been no tense situations and the
    rhetoric in both countries has been less aggressive. Most émigrés,
    including important businesspeople, support a rapprochement, and The New
    York Times has recently published six editorials calling for a change in
    policy towards Cuba.

    The main problem today may be the intensification of Cuba’s financial
    persecution, but that may not be a policy aimed at the island in
    particular, but rather a repercussion of being on the United States’
    list of countries that sponsor terrorism, something which Obama could
    easily change.

    In its most recent editorial, The New York Times notes how the old
    confrontation mechanisms become contradictory in today’s context. While
    maintaining a quick-visa program aimed at persuading Cuban medical
    doctors to leave their missions abroad, the US government publicly
    acknowledges the role that the island’s physicians are playing in Africa
    and even collaborates with them in the struggle against Ebola.

    At the international level, all of Latin America and the United States’
    European allies are pushing Washington to cease in its policy of
    hostility towards Cuba. Regional governments included the island in the
    Summit of the Americas, despite Washington’s protests, while Brussels
    negotiates an agreement with Havana.

    Cuban politicians consulted prefer not to speak on the basis of
    speculation and avoid addressing the issue, but they appear to have
    certain expectations, as though they were convinced that the ball is in
    their counterparts’ court.

    The average Cuban, however, does not seem that hopeful. It wouldn’t be
    the first time negotiations begin and meet with frustration after the
    initial steps. What’s more, nearly everyone has in some way become
    accustomed to living this way: 70 percent of Cubans have lived under the
    embargo since the day they were born.

    Source: Is Cuba Ready to Negotiate with the USA? – Havana Times.org –