sábado, 1 de octubre de 2016

Cuban diplomat takes to Twitter, says rapprochement with U.S. must continue

Cuban diplomat takes to Twitter, says rapprochement with U.S. must continue
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

Josefina Vidal, Cuba's chief negotiator in normalization talks with the
United States, said Friday that Cuba has been "intensely" laying the
groundwork so that the process of rapprochement that began under
President Barack Obama will continue even after he leaves office.

In a novel use of social media for a Cuban official, Vidal hosted a
Twitter Q&A session from the offices of @TwitterDC after concluding a
series of meetings with State Department officials. Vidal responded live
to written questions sent in by Twitter users for about 40 minutes. Far
more questions were submitted than she answered during the session.

Topics ran the gamut from migration, banking, the embargo and potential
investment by American companies to what other overtures to Cuba Obama
could make in the waning months of his presidency. But Vidal said there
was still a long road ahead before the two countries would arrive at the
full normalization of relations.

"It is our will and aspiration that the bilateral process that began on
Dec. 17, 2014, will be irreversible," said Vidal. "We've been working
intensely in this direction precisely to create the basis that will
permit this irreversibility."

Whatever the result of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, she
said, the rapprochement process, which "has the support of the immense
majority of public opinion," should continue.

Asked why the Cuban population hadn't yet noticed the impact of Cuba's
new relationship with the United States, Vidal responded: "Because there
still aren't normal relations."

On Friday, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere
Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte and Vidal led their respective delegations at
the fourth meeting of the Bilateral Commission, which included updates
on shared priorities such as public health, counter narcotics, and the
resumption of scheduled commercial flights between the United States and
Cuba.

During her Twitter session, Vidal said Cuba is still discussing ways
that its national airline, Cubana de Aviación, might be able to make
regularly scheduled flights between Cuba and the United States.

The U.S. State Department said the two sides expected to have future
meetings on economic issues, human rights, claims, environmental
protection, agriculture, law enforcement, health, migration, educational
and cultural exchanges, trafficking in persons, and regulatory issues.

Vidal said the fifth meeting of the Bilateral Commission would be held
in December, and from now until the end of the year seven high-level
visits by both Cuban and U.S. delegations were planned in Washington and
Havana.

She said the two sides were in the process of negotiating six new
agreements. They have already reached 12 agreements on areas of mutual
concern such as the environment and maritime protection since
rapprochement began.

Asked what further reforms the Obama administration might undertake,
Vidal mentioned allowing more U.S. products to be exported to Cuba,
allowing more Cuban imports and normalizing banking relations.

"There are many problems in U.S.-Cuban banking transactions," Vidal
said. "Operations are denied, bank accounts are closed, transfers of
money are rejected. This is one of the areas where many difficulties
still exist."

Even though the Obama administration has allowed the use of the U.S.
dollar in third-party financial transactions involving Cuba, "the
reality is that up to now, Cuba has not been able to make payments to
third parties with this money nor make deposits in cash with dollars,"
said Vidal.

Among the key aspects in reaching a normal relationship, she said, was
for the United States to end its "preferential" migratory policy for Cubans.

The U.S. wet foot/dry foot policy allows Cubans who reach U.S. territory
by any means to stay while in most cases Cubans who are intercepted at
sea en route to the United States are returned to the island. The Cuban
Adjustment Act allows Cubans to apply for permanent residency in the
United States after a year.

The elimination and modification of the United States' preferential
migratory policy toward Cubans was discussed during the Bilateral
Commission and will continued to be discussed in the future, Vidal said.

The questions and Vidal's response are available on her Twitter account
@JosefinaVidalF.

Source: Cuban diplomat takes to Twitter, says rapprochement with U.S.
must continue | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article105250981.html

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