Cuba, US to launch human rights dialogue Tuesday


Cuba’s Assistant Director-General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pedro Luis Pedroso gives a press conference in Havana, on March 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGE

Cuba and the United States will debate human rights at a meeting in Washington on Tuesday. It’s another sign of the thaw between the countries as they try to re-establish normal diplomatic relations after a 50-year freeze.

The discussions seem unlikely to lead to short-term changes in the way either country views rights issues. The U.S. is expected to press Cuba to allow its citizens greater freedom of speech, assembly, and political activity. Cuba likely will respond with its own critiques of poverty, insufficient health care coverage, and excessive police force in the United States.

But observers say even the start of a dialogue is an indication of progress in the countries’ broader move to normalize relations.

The U.S. had hoped to open an embassy in Havana by next month’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. Both sides have gone silent on the state of negotiations with two weeks until the summit, raising the question of whether restoring full diplomatic relations will be more complicated than some initially hoped.

Other tracks, however, appear to be moving ahead as planned. A U.S. delegation of government telecommunications experts on Thursday wrapped up a three-day trip to Havana that included meetings with Cuban officials and academics to explain a new policy permitting greater American private sector dealings with the island’s state-run telecoms sector.

The U.S. policy is designed to increase connectivity between the outside world and Cuba, which has one of the world’s lowest rates of Internet use and steep international calling costs that make calling family abroad out of bounds for many.

“These conversations about human rights show that Cuba is ready to discuss any topic with the U.S., despite our differences, and from a basis of equality,” Pedro Luis Pedroso, Cuba’s deputy director for multilateral affairs and international law, told reporters Thursday.

U.S. and Cuban diplomats have said they expect human rights talks to become an ongoing feature of their countries’ relationship.

Report by The Associated Press