By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

HAVANA, Cuba — This past Monday, Barack Obama’s administration met with Cuban officials to discuss the sharing of information regarding international crimes, including human trafficking.  Both the US State Department and the Cuban Interior Ministry signed the “memorandum of understanding” just a few days after the Obama administration ended the 21-year old “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy which allowed any Cuban who made it on to US soil to stay and become a legal resident.  Since the repeal of this immigration policy, Cubans who attempt to enter the U.S. illegally will be subject to removal from the country, even if they have been smuggled into the U.S. by human traffickers.

Obama waves to the crowd as he delivers a speech in Havana, Cuba in March 2016 (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
Obama waves to the crowd as he delivers a speech in Havana, Cuba in March 2016 (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

In the memorandum of understanding, both countries expressed “their intention to cooperate in prevention, confrontation, surveillance, investigation, and prosecution” as well as the “need to establish cooperation between law enforcement and judicial bodies of both nations to effectively address these challenges.”

Planned actions include the exchange of information and the designation of specific liaison officers which will help improve bilateral communication between the two nations.  In addition, both the U.S. and Cuba will carry out joint investigations and may station law-enforcement officials in each other’s countries to enforce the goals of the memorandum.

U.S. National Security Council explained that “[t]he goals of [Obama’s] Cuba policy have been simple: to help the Cuban people achieve a better future for themselves and to advance the interests of the United States.”  The Obama administration further commented that it is in the interest of both countries to fight international crimes such as human smuggling and child sexual abuse.

The memorandum was signed by Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and Cuban interior minister Vice Adm. Julio Cesar Gandarilla.  It was witnessed for the U.S. by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

This memorandum came as a last-minute effort by the Obama administration to strengthen ties with Cuba before the Trump administration took office.  Trump has threatened to disintegrate relations with Cuba unless Cuba gives the US a “better agreement.”


For more information, please see:

International Business Times — US and Cuba Sign MoU to fight Terrorism, Drug Trafficking — 17 January 2017

ABC — US, Cuban Interior Ministry Sign Law-Enforcement Deal — 16 January 2017

Reuters — Cuba, United States to Fight Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Other Crimes — 16 January 2017

Miami Herald — Obama Ends Controversial Policy that Allowed Cubans to Enter U.S. Without Visas — 12 January 2017

Author: Sarah Lafen