The United States and Cuba have ended their third round of talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations as abruptly as the meeting was announced, with no breakthrough on sticking points and in an atmosphere of rising tension over Venezuela.
A small group of American officials led by Roberta Jacobson, the top United States diplomat for Latin America, arrived in Havana on Sunday and met with Cuban counterparts on Monday. The talks ended without any public comment and despite earlier remarks by senior officials at the State Department who had contemplated an open-ended meeting that could last to midweek.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry released a short statement Tuesday acknowledging the meeting and saying that it had been conducted in a “professional atmosphere.” Talks would continue in the future, it said.
The biggest issue is apparently Venezuela. Cuba has been critical of the U.S. decision to go after individuals in the Venezuela government. As the referenced article points out, Raúl Castro is down in Caracas to line up with Venezuela against the U.S., plus all of the talk about an embassy by early April may be a bit premature.
My conclusion is that the talks have reached this point because the Obama administration did not have a plan, except hearing a cheer from Latin America's left-wing precincts about changing the policy.
There are several outstanding issues, from the assets of Americans confiscated by Cuba to fugitives from U.S. law in Cuba. The Cuban government wants Guantánamo back and "reparations" for the losses resulting from the embargo.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration did not demand anything from Cuba in exchange for the talks, as every president from Johnson to GW Bush had done. The net result is that these delegations have nothing to agree on.
This is like a blind date that hasn't clicked!
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