Cuban officials in Washington to restore diplomatic relations with U.S.

Four meetings between U.S. and Cuban officials have taken place since December when President Obama first announced that he was ordering a normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Today, negotiators on both sides met again in Washington to hammer out the details of a deal which would re-open embassies in both nation’s capitals for the first time since the U.S. closed it’s Cuban diplomatic building in 1961.

The White House has also taken steps to remove Cuba from the official list of states which sponsor terrorism, a designation that the country has been held for over 30 years. As a result, Cuba will be able to secure loans more easily and at lower interest-rates.

While State Department officials say that “we’re closer than we have been in the past” to normalizing relations, Cuba has not yet agreed to let hypothetical U.S. diplomats in Havana travel independently within the country, or even let them interact freely with their citizens.

Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat to Latin America, said at a Senate hearing this week that “we must have an embassy where diplomats can travel and see the country and talk to people.”

As it stands now, Cuban diplomats in the U.S. cannot leave New York or Washington, and their American counter-parts cannot leave Havana without the Cuban government’s approval.

Throughout this attempted normalization process, U.S. trade embargoes on Cuba still remain and can only be lifted by Congressional legislation. Obama’s executive actions in December have poked holes in some of the embargo rules however, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their native island, send money to relatives or friends, and has freed up restrictions to allow more telecommunications equipment to be exported there from the States.


[New York Times]