Published on Google-News, by PAUL HAVEN, December 5, 2009.
HAVANA — Highly anticipated immigration talks between Cuba and the United States have been pushed back because of scheduling concerns that each side blames on the other, another hint that reconciliation may be more difficult than it once appeared.
An U.S. State Department official told The Associated Press on Friday that both sides intend to continue holding periodic negotiations on immigration issues twice a year, but that bureaucratic concerns derailed talks that had been scheduled for early December in Havana. “At the Cuban government’s request, the talks have been rescheduled for February,” he said. A senior Cuban official confirmed that the negotiations had been delayed, but said it was at Washington’s bidding — not Cuba’s. “We were ready to hold the talks in December,” he said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the delay publicly …
… In September, Cuba and the United States revived talks to restore direct mail service between both countries since Obama took office. Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs who traveled to Havana for those discussions, stayed an extra six days and even met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, raising hopes for a thaw in relations.
But those hopes have fizzled somewhat.
Cuban officials say they have made concrete proposals to the United States to hold talks on counternarcotics, disaster preparedness and other issues — but have not heard back. Washington, in turn, says Cuba has done little to inspire confidence that it will allow social, political or economic changes — something the U.S. said is a prerequisite to moving forward.
“We are waiting to see what kind of opening they are going to give their own people,” a second, more senior State Department official told AP in a recent interview, also on condition of anonymity. “Their own people are asking for it. That would put more wind in our sails, so to speak, and help the dynamic moving forward.” (full text).