Cuba calls on US to ease sanctions on eve of migration talks

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 4:53 PM

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba on Monday said it would insist the U.S. ease sanctions and end special treatment of Cubans illegally entering its territory at high level migration talks slated to begin Tuesday in Washington.

The twice annual meetings resumed in 2022 after being suspended during the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and amid a record surge of around half a million Cubans illegally entering the United States beginning in 2021, according to U.S. authorities.

Cuba is mired in a deep economic crisis characterized by shortages of basic goods, run-away inflation and blackouts.

The talks’ stated aim is to promote safe, legal and orderly migration between the two countries.

Johana Tablada de la Torre, deputy director for U.S. affairs in Cuba’s foreign ministry, expressed frustration at not reaching those goals while stating the talks remained important as one of the few points of contact under the administration of President Joe Biden.

“The blockade (sanctions) … is what most weighs in on the bilateral migration situation,” Tablada told a press conference in Havana.

Cuba’s Communist government has long blamed U.S. sanctions for strangling the island’s economy and the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants special entry rights to Cubans and support upon arrival, for encouraging its youth to emigrate.

The United States – the top destination for Cuban migrants – counters that a lack of civil liberties and human rights in Cuba have combined with a state-dominated economy to force its citizens to migrate.

The Biden administration has increased legal pathways to migration for Cubans, including visa access in Havana, family reunification and humanitarian parole programs aimed at stemming illegal migration.

Tablada said the measures would not solve the problem as long as sanctions remained in place.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; additional reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Josie Kao)