Tuesday, September 29, 2009

U.S.-Cuba hold unannounced talks. Relations warming?

The Associated Press reports that State Department official Bisa Williams met with Cuban officials during a six-day trip to Cuba this month.
AP quoted a U.S. official as saying:
We were going over ground we haven't gone over for a long time. Each side was taking advantage of the opportunity to size each other up.
Williams is the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. She met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez on Sept. 17. News of that visit was public.

Source of photo: Facebook. This photo is tiny. Anyone have an official State Department photo of Bisa Williams? C'mon, don't be shy. Send it along.
What the AP revealed is that Williams stayed an extra five days, visited the western province of Pinar del Rio and toured a government agricultural facility.
CNN also reported the news, here.

Dagoberto Rodriguez. Photo credit: BBC World

Ginger Thompson of the New York Times said Williams was "the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Cuba since 2002; in 2004, the Bush administration ended twice-a-year migration talks with Havana."

Thompson's story said:
The Obama administration restarted those talks this year, hosting a Cuban delegation in New York. President Obama has also lifted Bush administration limits on remittances and travel for Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.
Among other small but significant gestures, United States officials turned off an electronic sign that streamed anti-Castro messages on the windows of the United States Interests Section, the diplomatic complex Washington maintains in Havana. In return, Cuban officials lowered dozens of large black flags they had raised to block the view of the sign.
Julia E. Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times that these are important steps toward improved U.S.-Cuba relations. She said:
Look at the momentum; look at the pace of these steps. It’s a departure from many, many years of practice.
An April 2009 Along the Malecon post on Dan Restrepo, Jonathan Farrar and Bisa Williams - three U.S. officials who are key players in American policy toward Cuba.

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