With the conclusion on Tuesday of the first formal talks between Cuba and the United States on human rights, both countries agreed that they were capable of holding a “respectful, professional [and] civilized conversation” on the issue of human rights.
Representatives from both countries met yesterday in Washington DC in the first of many dialogues to be held between the U.S. and Cuba as part of the process to normalize bilateral relations, first announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro on December 17, 2014.
The U.S. delegation was led by Tom Malinowski, the U.S. undersecretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. Meanwhile, Pedro Luis Pedroso, deputy director of multilateral affairs and international law at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, headed the Cuban delegation.
Cuban Ambassador Anaysansi Rodríguez Camejo acknowledged “differences” between the two sides in terms of how human rights “are protected and promoted in their respective countries as in the international arena.”
Pedroso called attention to the persistence of discrimination and racism in the United States, police brutality, extrajudicial acts of torture in the context of the war against terrorism, and judicial limbo inmates face at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo. Furthermore, he said that the Cuban delegation “also has concerns over the limitation of the labor rights and bargaining freedoms.”
Although Undersecretary Malinowski did not give an official statement before heading into the talks, the U.S. was expected to press Cuba to allow its citizens greater freedom of speech, assembly and political activity, including respect for the rights of political dissidents and political prisoners.
Tuesday’s meeting ended without setting a date, agenda or host for future talks. But the State Department said in a statement that “there was broad agreement on the way forward for a future substantive dialogue.”