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Cuba blasts U.S. following first talks on migration in years

Cuba blamed the U.S. for the rise in migration from the island to the U.S. and accused the U.S. of excluding them from an upcoming regional summit.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez speaks at the Foreign Ministry in Havana on Monday.Jorge Luis Banos / AFP - Getty Images

Cuba blasted the U.S. over a wide range of issues, including the rise in migration of Cubans to the U.S., and accused the U.S. of excluding the island from the Summit of the Americas during a news conference Monday in Havana.

Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, called on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “to say in an honest way if Cuba will be invited to the ninth Summit of the Americas.”

A State Department spokesperson said no invitations have been issued from the White House at this time. NBC News has asked the department for comment on the other other allegations Rodríguez made during the news conference.

The Summit of the Americas will be held in Los Angeles in June. Cuba participated in the last summit, in 2018, and one in 2015, but it was not invited to prior meetings.

The news conference came after the U.S. and Cuba held migration talks in Washington, D.C., last week as the number of Cubans coming through the U.S.-Mexico border has soared. Nearly 80,000 Cubans were apprehended at the border between October and April, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Last week’s meeting amounted to the highest-level talks between the two countries in over four years. Rodríguez said the talks were a “positive sign.”

But he also called U.S. policy toward Cuba "incoherent" and "contradictory" because, he said, the U.S. tightens the embargo "and at the same time restricts migration."

The U.S. downsized the number of employees at the Havana embassy following mysterious health incidents, and it stopped processing visas there. Instead, Cubans have had to travel to Guyana or other countries to have visas processed, which is costly for the average Cuban. As a result, the U.S. has not issued the 20,000 annual migrant visas it committed to following the 1994 migrant accords. Rodríguez said this is one of the main causes for the spike in Cubans leaving the island for the U.S.

He said although the U.S. offers financial incentives to countries near the U.S. border to decrease the flow of migrants, "with Cuba, the recipe is the extreme strengthening" of the embargo.

Rodríguez accused the U.S. of hampering Cuba's response to the pandemic after then-President Donald Trump tightened the screws on the embargo. The Biden administration has largely kept Trump's policies in place, though the administration recently announced it would increase some staffing in the embassy to process a limited amount of visas.

Carmen Sesin reported from Miami and Orlando Matos reported from Havana, Cuba.

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