Cuba, US to fight terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes

Cuba's President Raul Castro waves beside Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, General Guillermo Garcia and Commander of the Revolution Ramiro Valdes as they watch a march in Havana. Photo: Reuters

HAVANA - Cuba and the United States on Monday signed an agreement to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and other international criminal activities on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

President Barack Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who helped negotiate the normalisation of relations between the two countries begun two years ago, was present for the signing, according to the White House.

A brief statement said Rhodes was in Cuba for "official meetings, cultural engagements, and to witness the signing of a US-Cuba Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)."

Trump, who takes office on Friday, has threatened to scrap a still-fragile detente between the two countries unless Cuba makes further political and economic concessions.

Trump is expected to review Cuba policy upon taking office and has named Jason Greenblatt, a Trump Organisation executive and chief legal counsel, as negotiator for sensitive international issues, including Cuba.

"The arrangement will establish a framework for strengthening our partnership on counter narcotics, counter terrorism, legal cooperation, and money laundering, including technical exchanges that contribute to a strong US-Cuba law enforcement relationship," the White House statement said.

The signing was not open to the press, however Reuters has seen a copy of the agreement, signed by US Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

The two countries on Thursday announced a deal to cooperate on immigration issues and put an end to a 20-year-old policy that gave entry to Cubans without visas if they set foot on US soil.

Obama has used his executive powers to improve relations and punch holes in the US trade embargo, which can only be lifted by Congress. The deals and orders can be reversed by Trump.

Eighteen cooperation accords have been inked to date, ranging from postal services and science to protecting the environment and healthcare cooperation.

There has been initial discussion over more difficult issues such as US nationalisation compensation claims, Cuba's demand for embargo reparations, extraditing fugitives and the return of the Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuba.

Travel to the communist-run Caribbean island from the United States has increased, with the start of direct flights and cruises and cellphone roaming agreements signed, but there have been no manufacturing or major trade deals inked.

Reuters

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