Jackson and Castro call for US-Cuba ties, prisoner release
Jesse Jackson and Fidel Castro managed to reach agreement on a number of issues that are usually in dispute between the United States and Cuba. After a marathon eight-hour session of talks, which ended in the wee hours Wednesday, they agreed on a 10-point agenda for action. This included a call for the immediate resumption of Cuba-United States relations and the release of 22 US citizens from Cuban jails.
All did not go smoothly during their talks, however. There was clear disagreement on some issues. One of these was the return to Cuba of several hundred of the Cuban refugees who joined the exodus from Cuba four years ago who are being held in US detention centers.
Castro favored discussions on the issue after US presidential elections in November but the Rev. Mr. Jackson argued for immediate action. In the end, Dr. Castro came around to the Jackson position, with the proviso that the return of these Cuban boat people does not become a ''political issue'' in the US.
That, of course, is very vague language. But it suggests that the talks, while amiable, contained points of disagreement.
It is not known whether there was any discussion of the continuing desire of many Cubans to leave the island and to perhaps go into US exile. Their numbers are in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or so.
And it is not known whether Jackson raised the issue of the presence of Soviet military units in Cuba or of political freedom on the island.
Possibly the most sensitive issue was that of political prisoners. In a post-midnight joint press conference with Castro, Jackson said he would visit some Cuban jails Wednesday.
Castro was putting his best foot forward during the talks. He and the Cuban government are giving Jackson a warm reception, while at the same time showing signs of wanting to get across a message to the people of the US that ''now is the time for rapprochement.''
There was no doubt as they sat down that Jackson and Castro agreed on the need to get everyone to the peace table in Central America's several conflicts. They also agreed that Namibia (South-West Africa) should become independent from South African control and that there should be an end to South Africa's war with Angola. Both points are part of the two men's agenda.
Cuba agreed to the withdrawal its troops (estimated to number between 25,000 and 30,000) from Angola as soon as the South Africans agree to end the conflict.
In addition to calls for normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, Jackson and Castro called for an ''immediate exchange of ambassadors'' between the two countries with ''no preconditions.''
If 22 US citizens cited in the 10-point agenda are released from Cuban jails, this would ''substantially'' remove all US citizens from prison here, Castro and Jackson said. Some observers here say that many of the 22 Americans have been charged with drug-smuggling. It was understood, however, that at least four Americans convicted of skyjacking would remain in Cuban jails.