After nearly six decades of accusing one another of economic damages running into the hundreds of billions of dollars, the governments of Cuba and the United States finally sat down to talk about it Tuesday. And after a day of negotiations, they reached a firm agreement: to talk again, next year.
“These things can take some time to slog through the issues,” said a State Department official involved in the talks, in a tone that sounded anything but optimistic.
The talks, conducted in Havana for what the State Department official (who didn’t want to be identified), said was “the better part of a day,” apparently didn’t get much beyond a polite recitation of claims by each side.
Both described the meeting in bilingual diplomatic bland-speak. “A very respectful and professional exchange,” said the State Department official. “A respectful and professional climate,” agreed a communique from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
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Details were so scarce that neither side would even say what numbers were put on the table, although a good deal of that information has been publicly discussed in the past.
The State Department is pursuing about $1.9 billion (which rise to around $8 billion if interest is included) in claims by U.S. citizens and corporations for property confiscated in the early days after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
It also raised the question of 10 or so legal judgments against Cuba in U.S. courts, including some stemming from the 1996 shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes, that haven’t been paid, and some unspecified direct claims by the U.S. government against the Cuban government.
Cuba, meanwhile, has said the United States owes it about $122 billion for damage inflicted by the American government’s economic embargo against the island, as well as $181 billion in compensation for deaths and injuries suffered during the Bay of Pigs invasion and other attacks by U.S. security forces and Cuban exiles.
“I’m not sure we have absolutely exact figures to share with you,” said the State Department official, who did acknowledge that “the numbers are large.” And, she added, Tuesday’s meeting was only “the first step in a complex process that may take some time.”