The Obama administration completed two days of talks with Cuban officials Wednesday on resuming long-dormant direct mail delivery to the island.
Since Fidel Castro came to power more than five decades ago, the U.S Postal Service has been unable to deliver mail directly to Cubans, and has had to route letters and packages through third countries. The service is widely known to be slow and unreliable. International express mail is not available.
“The reason we’re doing this is because it’s of course good for the Cuban people,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week. “This is something we feel is good for us.”
She cautioned that the talks, between Cuban officials and a U.S. delegation led by the international postal affairs division of the Postal Service and the chief of mission for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana are “not meant to be a signal of anything or indicate a change in policy.”
Letter service, express mail and parcel service are expected to be on the table.
Psaki would not say who had asked for a resumption of the talks, which have stopped and started several times in recent years, the last in January 2011.
Direct mail service was suspended in 1963, the year the Kennedy administration tightened the trade embargo with Cuba and made all but a sliver of travel there illegal for American citizens.
Separately, U.S. and Cuban officials said they plan on July 17 to resume talks on migration between the long-hostile countries.
The discussions about mail and negotiations on immigration have been on hold over demands from Washington that Cuba release a jailed American subcontractor named Alan Gross.
Gross was arrested in December 2009 while on a democracy-building program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is serving a 15-year sentence after being caught bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally.
Migration between the countries has come under closer scrutiny since Havana eased its restrictions on travel abroad on Jan. 14, raising the possibility that more Cubans will move to the United States, legally or illegally. Cubans are no longer required to obtain an exit visa or a mandatory invitation letter from a foreign host to leave the island.