Cuba’s ruling party and the Havana visit of Roberta Jacobson

Roberta Jacobson, Secretaria Adjunta para Latinoamérica del Departamento de Estado
Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs, US Department of State

The opinions broadcast on Cuban Television spaces such as the  National News or the Telesur channel show points in common, although there are also contradictions, with regards to the Havana visit of the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs from the US Department of State, Roberta Jackson. There are “great expectations,” says the journalist Cristina Escobar; while the analyst Esteban Morales says, “We don’t have many illusions.”

However, everyone recognizes that the negotiations on Thursday will mark a “historic” event, because they will address the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In short, the Interest Sections in Washington and Havana will be transformed into embassies.

On Tuesday’s  National News it was reported that at the high-level meeting Havana “will discuss the banking situation of the Cuban Interest Section in the American capital, which has gone a year without offering normal services because no bank wants to offer them services due to the regulations of the blockade.”

It was also announced that, “There will be no lack (…) of issues like the fight against narcotrafficking, human trafficking, oil spills, search and rescue, counterterrorism, and confronting epidemics.” According to the official commentary, this information was provided by “a source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” on the Island.

Cuba is also anxious to be removed from the United States’ list of states that support international terrorism. That decision depends on President Obama.

Within the current political détente, the official media highlighted the current embargo. “Is the blockade over? Absolutely not,” concluded journalist Cristina Escobar in an analysis before Jacobson’s arrival. The journalist added that “the blockad will end the day that financial transactions between the United States and Cuba are not regulated by Congress,” which will be “a long and complex road.” Coincidentally, a few hours later, during his most important speech of the year, the US president asked Congress to end the Cuban embargo.

As was expected, one of the most fortified trenches on the Cuban side has been nationalist ideology. The regime will talk about human rights, democracy and individual freedoms – “the most difficult issues,” according to Esteban Morales on  Telesur – with emphasis on “no interference” from outside and “sovereignty.” Morales argued that the US should not “demand that we follow a direction ordered [by them], in terms of organizing our democratic system and our individual liberties,” and there should also be a willingness to “throw on the table the problems of democracy, human rights and individual freedoms that exist in the US.”

The Cuban analyst does not think our northern neighbor “has renounced a political strategy to regain control of Cuba,” but now our country would have “the possibility of developing a much more positive activity” thanks to the existence of the embassies. Thus, “there will be a much more organized dynamic.”

Another concern of the ruling party is that the final lifting of the embargo might be postponed beyond the Obama administration, because the question would “depend a lot on whether we have a future administration that will stick to this idea.”

While the emphasis of the high-level meeting is diplomatic rapprochement, one agenda item that will be discussed on Thursday that does not go unnoticed is that this Wednesday will be the 28th meeting between the two governments on migration issues. Havana will take the opportunity to discuss the Cuban Adjustment Act, the “wet foot dry foot” policy, and “an interpretation of the document that could change.”

The Cuban side is most likely to oppose a resolution that benefits all those on the Island who emigrate to the United States, a legal phenomenon that creates certain contradictions in this country with regards to migration reform. Paradoxically, those Cubans who are capable of establishing themselves in the United States – thanks largely to the Cuban Adjustment Act – constitute one of the principle sources of income to the regime’s economy.

Turning to the meetings on diplomatic relations, the previous scenario had to be reconfigured in record time. In little over a month, the United States announced the rapprochement with our country, started to implement the legal measures relating to it, and its president asked a Congress dominated by the opposition party to end the half-century embargo. The speed of events is excessive for those who do not usually deal with politics in a timely fashion: the Cuban leaders.

Beyond the expectations and mistrust generated among the Island’s authorities by Roberta Jacobson’s visit, there is a notable sense of consternation. Basically, what the regime is hoping for is that things will proceed slowly, so that they will not have to deal with the consequences of an excessive enthusiasm.

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