- Title: Cuba warns of human traffickign risk due to frosty U.S. ties
- Date: 1st June 2017
- Summary: HAVANA, CUBA (FILE - JANUARY 13, 2017) (REUTERS) GENERAL VIEW OF EXTERIOR OF UNITED STATES EMBASSY PEOPLE FORMING LINE TO ENTER THE EMBASSY STAFF PERSON FROM U.S. EMBASSY COLLECTING PASSPORTS FROM CUBANS
- Embargoed: 15th June 2017 21:57
- Keywords: Raul Castro Donald Trump Barack Obama high-level talks United States human trafficking
- Location: HAVANA, CUBA AND UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION IN SEAWATERS OF CUBAN TERRITORY
- City: HAVANA, CUBA AND UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION IN SEAWATERS OF CUBAN TERRITORY
- Country: Cuba
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0016JG67NN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Cuba and the United States have dramatically reduced the rate of human trafficking since reaching a landmark accord in January but risk losing those gains if the two neighbors fail to resume high-level talks, Cuban Interior Ministry officials said in an exclusive interview.
During bilateral talks in the final days of former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, the United States agreed on Jan. 12 to end a longstanding policy of admitting Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil, a move aimed at discouraging them from taking a dangerous voyage on the high seas.
The "wet foot, dry foot" policy was one example of the special welcome the U.S. government extended to Cubans as it sought to isolate the island's Communist government, and its repeal marked the culmination of Obama's rapprochement with America's former Cold War rival.
Since President Donald Trump assumed power on Jan. 20 with promises to review the detente, high-level bilateral talks have ground to a halt. In the meantime, smuggling rings have been trying to reorganize and consolidate, Cuban officials said, seeking new ways to sneak Cubans and other foreign nationals into the United States.
Although U.S. and Cuban law enforcement agencies maintain direct communications with each other, the high-level talks are essential, the Cubans say.
A lieutenant colonel representing the immigration directorate, and two other lieutenant colonels in the Interior Ministry, representing the police and coast guard, spoke to Reuters on Wednesday in a rare opening to the foreign media, limiting their comments to human trafficking and immigration fraud.
Lieutenant Colonel Marco Rodriguez, representing Cuban police, said he is hopeful for progress to continue.
The interview took place as the Trump administration nears completion of a policy review to determine how far it will go in rolling back Obama's engagement with Cuba, according to current and former U.S. officials and people familiar with the discussions. The announcement of any policy change could come in June, they said. Trump, a Republican, has been critical of the move by his Democratic predecessor on the grounds it did not push Cuba hard enough on human rights issues.
Bilateral talks enable multiple agencies from both sides to coordinate and update strategies against criminal organizations, said Lieutenant Colonel Marco Rodriguez, representing Cuban police.
The Cuba officials said the smuggling of illegal immigrants had dropped remarkably since Jan. 12, the day the United States ended the "wet foot, dry foot" policy.
In the first 12 days of this year, Cuba intercepted 69 plots to smuggle people off the island, but there were only 44 such cases in the following three and a half months, Rodriguez said.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported zero detention of Cubans at sea in April, the first month in seven years that has happened. It is just 90 miles (145 km) from Cuba to Key West, Florida, and tens of thousands of Cubans, if not more, have made the journey since Cuba's 1959 revolution.
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