Cuba and the United States broke diplomatic relations in January 1961 during the administration of Eisenhower, and then it occurred the Bay of Pigs invasion (April that year) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962), facts that worsened relations between the two countries.
Although according to declassified documents of US government presented by the independent organization National Security Archive in 2011, from President John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton, the successive US presidents secretly tried to search approach options to normalize relations with Cuba, the result was almost always the opposite. It was not until December 17, 2014, (53 years later) under President Obama in the United States and Raul Castro in Cuba that that door has begun to open.
The best moment in relations between the two countries occurred during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, when, among other agreements, the opening of an Interests Section Office in Cuba and the United States was achieved precisely in 1977, first year of his term.
Talks between high level officials taking place in Havana since yesterday are unprecedented in the diplomatic history between the two nations since 1961. Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, belonging to the State Department, who will chair today the second day of conversations, is the highest ranking official to visit Havana to have a formal dialogue with the Cuban government.
Jacobson visited Cuba in 2011 to participate in the fourth round of migration dialogue between Cuba and the United States at that time as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere. And according to John Kerry, State Secretary, the role of Roberta was very important in the case of Alan Gross, although she was not directly involved in the secret discussions between the two governments for over a year. “She did much out of the limelight. She will be absolutely essential to these talks with Cubans while we prepare the stage for the next phase in our relationships and for great opportunities in the hemisphere, “said Kerry.
It is said that she owns an amazing professional expertise; attribute that she will surely use on her dialogue with the Cuban side. Jacobson has a Master Degree of Arts in Law and is graduated from the Fletcher School and also has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University.
She is the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department since March 2012. Jacobson works for the State Department since 1986 and was assigned to the National Security Council in 1988. Since then she has developed her career in the Office for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Between 1994 and 1996 she coordinated the Office of Cuban Affairs. Among other positions, she was director of the Office of Mexican Affairs (2002 – 2007) and Assistant Secretary for Canada and Mexico until 2010. In that year she was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Affairs.
According to an article published on January 20th by the State Department, the agenda of the American side for the meeting will include issues related to the opening of the Embassy, the staff and visa processing. The State Department also reported that during her visit to Havana, Jacobson will meet with members of civil society as well as business and religious leaders.
Josefina Vidal, general director for the US in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will chair the negotiating table for Cuba. Vidal is a graduate from the Institute of International Relations in Moscow ; she worked as a diplomat in France and between 1997 and 1999 was senior specialist of the Department of North America of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. She was first secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington (1999-2003). In 2012 s he was appointed to the position she currently holds. She is also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
She is considered a specialist on US issues and owns a profound knowledge on relations between the two countries. She is also an intelligent woman, a shrewd negotiator, strong and able to talk with the most dissimilar interlocutors.
According to statements by an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published by CubaDebate site, the Cuban agenda for today’s meeting will address that the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both capitals should be based on the principles of international law, endorsed in the United Nations Charter and in the Vienna Conventions; and the banking situation of the Cuban venue in the US, without service for almost a year. The Cuban side has also announced its readiness to hold a respectful dialogue and on reciprocal basis on the subject of human rights.
The decision of President Obama and Jacobson herself to remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism which is made by the United States, suggest that this could be another issue to be dealt with.
Jacobson and Vidal already know each other, they have met each other on several occasions and this time, in Havana, these women lead a session that opens the door to a new era in relations between the two countries. The fact that the heads are women, for the first time, could be another sign of change and good omen.