US says focused on Cuba migration in highest talks under Biden

AFP , Thursday 21 Apr 2022

The United States and Cuba on Thursday held their highest-level talks since President Joe Biden took office, but Washington said they focused narrowly on migration and did not herald any broader thaw.

Construction workers work near the US embassy in Havana, on April 21, 2022.  AFP
Construction workers work near the US embassy in Havana, on April 21, 2022. AFP

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio traveled to Washington for the meetings with US officials including Emily Mendrala, a senior State Department official in charge of Cuba and migration.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the talks were "focused squarely" on rising migration from the communist island, which has experienced economic tumult after the Covid-19 pandemic dried up its vital tourism industry.

"Discussions on safe, orderly and legal migration -- that remains a primary US interest," Price told reporters.

"Our broader policy is predicated on support for the Cuban people, support for their democratic aspirations. There are migration elements of that, there's a family reunification element of that, but these talks are migration talks."

He noted that migration talks had taken place regularly until they were suspended by former president Donald Trump, who championed a hard line and rolled back much of the normalization initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Biden, who was Obama's vice president, has done little to reverse the measures put in place by Trump, who startled Biden's Democratic Party by making inroads among Hispanic voters in the crucial electoral state of Florida.

The Biden administration has instead taken his own punitive action including the imposition of sanctions on senior Cuban officials for repressing rare mass protests last year.

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