HAVANA, Cuba (CBS4) – U.S. diplomats are in Havana to discuss with their Cuban counterparts immigration and several other contentious issues including the detention of American contractor Alan Gross.
The face to face meetings, which occur twice a year, were designed to focus on 17-year-old agreement under which the U.S. issues 20,000 visas to Cubans a year. Diplomats on both sides, however, tend to use the meetings to voice their long-standing list of complaints.
The Cuban delegation always complains about Washington’s 48-year trade embargo, which Havana says has placed a stranglehold on the island’s economy. American diplomats are sure to raise the issue of Gross, who has been jailed by Cuba for more than a year without charge on suspicion of spying. They are also sure to bring up what they consider Cuba’s spotty human-rights record overall.
U.S. officials have made it clear that there is little hope for improved relations while Cuba holds Gross. They have also continued to call on Cuban authorities to open up the island’s political system to democratic reform.
Hopes that President Barack Obama would usher in a new era in bilateral relations are long gone.
According to leaked American diplomatic cables, Cuban President Raul Castro — Fidel’s brother, who has been running Cuba since 2006 — approached Washington about opening backdoor talks with the White House, but was rebuffed.