During a visit to Miami for a meeting with Western Hemisphere ambassadors Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson also reached out to the Cuban-American community.
Jacobson’s Miami visit follows a week when she testified before both the House and Senate on President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy and push to renew diplomatic relations with Havana.
Asked during a hearing last Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee whether there would be a strategy to reach out to the Cuban-American community, Jacobson responded, “Absolutely we have begun to do that, knowing that views in the community are diverse as well.”
But the main purpose of Jacobson’s Miami visit was to participate in a U.S. Southern Command conference that gathers chiefs of mission and charge d’affaires from around the Americas and officials from SOUTHCOM and other U.S. agencies to discuss priorities in the Western Hemisphere for 2015.
She also met with members of the Cuban-American community to discuss the president’s Cuba policy, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson who declined to provide details of those meetings.
Jacobson, who was the United States’ chief negotiator during last month’s talks in Havana to discuss steps to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana, also recorded interviews with Spanish-language América TeVé, MegaTV, and Mira TV.
The new policy of engagement with Cuba has been controversial in the Cuban-American community with some embracing it enthusiastically and others opposing it and complaining that they weren’t consulted during 18 months of secret talks that led to the diplomatic breakthrough.
Ninoska Pérez, a talk-show host on Radio Mambí, said three exile groups had rebuffed overtures for meetings with Jacobson and she congratulated them on Twitter.
“They said if she couldn’t connect with them during 18 months of negotiations, then why should they want to talk with her on this damage-control trip,” said Pérez. Jacobson has testified that she wasn’t aware of how far-reaching the new policy would be until six to eight weeks before it was announced Dec. 17.
Ángel de Fana, of Plantados — a group that’s part of the umbrella organization Asamblea de la Resistencia (Resistance Assembly) said it didn’t make sense to take part in a meeting with Jacobson at this point.
“If they had asked my opinion before Obama made his decision, I would have gone but now that decision has been made,” said de Fana. “They want to meet with some exiles because they know that we aren’t in agreement with negotiations with the Castro tyranny. For me, this is unacceptable.”
El Nuevo Herald Staff Writer Nora Gamez Torres contributed to this article.