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U.S. won’t return Guantánamo to improve ties with Cuba
02/04/2015 12:24 PM 02/04/2015 12:24 PM

An Obama administration official Wednesday told Congress the White House
had ruled out handing over the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay,
rejecting a central demand of Cuban President for restoring
normal relations between the two countries.

Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, also said the
U.S. would continue transmitting radio and television broadcasts into
Cuba that are opposed by Castro’s government.

While Guantánamo and the broadcasts are irritants, Washington believes
neither is likely to stand in the way of U.S. and Cuban embassies being
re-established after a half-century interruption. The U.S. is hoping to
clinch an agreement with Cuba on embassies in the coming months.

Jacobson’s testimony before a largely hostile House Foreign Affairs
Committee came as an Associated Press-GfK poll found broad support in
the United States for warmer ties with Cuba.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed supported full diplomatic relations
between the Cold War foes, with only 15 percent opposing. Sixty percent
backed the end of the U.S. economic of Cuba, with 35 percent for
its continuation.

But the views expressed at Wednesday’s hearing were different. Senior
Republicans and Democrats took turns excoriating President Barack Obama
for negotiating in secret a December spy swap that also included
promises from him and Castro to turn a new page in the U.S.-Cuban

Castro last week laid out his long-term objectives for the
rapprochement. They include the U.S. returning the Guantánamo base and
, lifting the embargo and compensating his country for damages.
The U.S. established the naval base in 1903; Cuba’s communist government
has sought its return since coming to power in 1959.

“The issue of Guantánamo is not on the table in these conversations,”
Jacobson told lawmakers. Cuba has raised the issue, she said, but “we
are not interested in discussing that.”

Jacobson, who testified Tuesday before a Senate panel, traveled last
month to Havana for two days of talks. It was the highest-level trip to
the island by a U.S. official in 35 years. She plans to resume talks
with the Cubans in Washington this month.

The most immediate goal is embassies. The U.S. says Cuba must first end
restrictions on American diplomats, shipments to the current U.S.
Interests Section in Havana and entrance by Cubans to that building.

Cuba’s most pressing demand is an end to banking restrictions, many of
which are linked to its U.S. designation as a “state sponsor of
terrorism.” The Obama administration is likely to lift Cuba from that
list in the next months.

The AP-GfK poll found self-identified Democrats overwhelmingly in favor
of restoring embassies and eliminating the U.S. embargo, which Obama has
eased but only Congress can revoke.

Among Republicans, the blocs are closer. Thirty-four percent want
diplomatic relations, with 30 percent opposed. Forty-nine percent want
the embargo lifted, with 50 percent believing it should stay.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,045 adults was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 2,
using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which
is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of
sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey
methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for
KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the were
provided access at no cost.

Source: U.S. won’t return Guantánamo to improve ties with Cuba | The
Miami Herald The Miami Herald –

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