Cuba Maintains U.S. Embargo Is Harsh Financial Persecution
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
An NPR team spent last week in Cuba. This week, we are in Miami. It has given us a glimpse of both sides of one of the most enduring diplomatic standoffs. While in Cuba, we met up with the veteran diplomat who is Havana’s point person in that standoff. Her name is Josephina Vidal. She’s director of U.S. relations for the Cuban government. [emphasis added] We were brought into a small sitting room just off the lobby in the Foreign Ministry to chat. And I began by asking Vidal about President Obama and Raul Castro greeting each other at Nelson Mandela’s funeral back in December. Was it more than just a handshake?
JOSEPHINA VIDAL: This is what educated civilized people normally do, even though we haven’t had diplomatic trade and normal relations for more than 50 years now.
GREENE: As far as we know, the two governments aren’t even communicating about two cases that are really important to them. An American named Alan Gross was in Cuba as a USAID contractor. He was arrested for bringing communications equipment into the country, and now he’s in a Cuban prison serving a 15-year sentence. Meanwhile, three Cuban agents convicted of spying in the United States are also serving long sentences in a American prisons. They’re part of the so-called Cuban Five who are seen as heroes in Cuba. The U.S. government views these cases as fundamentally different, but Josephina Vidal says she sees the potential for some kind of deal.
VIDAL: This is what we have been saying to the United States for almost two years now. It is important to understand that Alan Gross came to Cuba, not because we invited him to come, he came to Cuba to implement a program of the United States government. That’s the reason why we tell the United States government that we need to sit down in order to talk about both our cases.
GREENE: And have any conversations started over those two cases at all?
VIDAL: Feeling responsible for our people and trying to look together for the best solution acceptable for both of us and that respond to our concerns. This is what I can say now.
Feature continues here: Interview With Spy Josefina Vidal
Editor’s Note: As longtime readers of Cuba Confidential are aware, Vidal was thrown out of the US in 2003 as part of a massive expulsion of Cuban diplomat spies. She was subsequently appointed to “official” duties as head of US relations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
NPR’s handling of this interview begs the question, if a CIA officer were expelled from Cuba and the US then appointed her as head of the State Department’s Office of Cuban Affairs, would the media be so forgiving of her spy employment? I think not……