US Envoy’s Extended Stay In Cuba a Sign of Rosier Ties
Havana. A senior US diplomat who participated in recent talks in Havana about resuming bilateral mail service with Cuba stayed around to meet with Cuban officials in the latest sign of thawing relations between the two countries.
A spokeswoman for the US Interests Section in the Cuban capital said on Tuesday that Bisa Williams, acting deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, was in Cuba for several days after the Sept. 17 meeting, holding the previously unannounced meetings.
The spokeswoman said Williams met with Cuban officials and with members of Cuba’s “civil society,” and went to the western province of Pinar del Rio to tour facilities there.
US-Cuban relations have begun slowly warming under President Barack Obama, who has said he wants to “recast” relations that have been hostile since a 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power and led to Cuba’s transformation into a communist state.
Obama has lifted limits on travel for Cuban Americans and sending money to Cuba, and initiated talks with Havana on migration and mail service, the latter aimed at reinstating direct postal service between Cuba and the United States, which was suspended in 1963.
The two governments issued positive statements after both meetings and said more talks would be held in the future.
The first round of migration talks was held in New York in July, and a second round is tentatively scheduled for December in Havana.
They had been suspended since 2004 by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
This July, in a small but symbolic gesture, Washington turned off a news ticker in the window of the US Interests Section in Havana that the Cuban government had viewed as an affront to its sovereignty.
Despite the thaw, Obama has said he will maintain the 47-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba until the Cuban government shows progress on human rights and democracy.
Cuba has said it views those as strictly internal issues not subject to negotiation.
Two weeks ago, Obama signed a yearly renewal of the act that imposes the embargo, which Cuba blames for most of its economic problems.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that Cuba wanted normal relations with the United States, and acknowledged that Obama had taken some positive but small steps in the right direction.