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Top U.S. Negotiator Meets With Cuban Dissidents About Rights After Havana Talks

State Department

The U.S. and Cuba have wrapped up the first round of historic talks to re-establish diplomatic relations. But the lead U.S. negotiator stayed on in Havana today to meet with dissidents and address Cuba’s human rights record.

Roberta Jacobson is the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for the western hemisphere. She’s the highest-ranking American official to visit communist Cuba in four decades. This week Jacobson and her delegation met with Cuban officials in Havana to hash out how to normalize relations that were severed 54 years ago –  but this morning she underlined a very large sticking point.

“We also addressed continuing areas of deep disagreement between the United States and Cuba," Jacobson said at a news conference. "This includes our concern about progress in the area of freedom of expression and human rights.”

The Cubans said human rights were not discussed – at least not formally.

Either way, Jacobson met today with Cuban dissidents at the U.S. diplomatic residence in Havana. Leading dissidents like ElizardoSánchez said they’re glad the U.S. is now pursuing engagement with Cuba as a means of empowering civil society. Others, like BertaSoler, don’t approve – they say normalization legitimizes a repressive regime – and did not accept Jacobson’s invitation to talk.

Jacobson said the normalization process will be long. She said this week meeting "was just a first step. We know there will need to be many more.” Talks may resume next month in Washington.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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