When Roberta Jacobson’s plane touches down in Havana this week, she will be the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit the island since President Jimmy Carter’s administration. Her job? Help restore diplomatic relations severed at the height of the Cold War.
Jacobson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, flies to Cuba for two days of talks with Cuban counterparts on Jan. 21, little more than a month after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced plans to improve ties following a prisoner swap.
Jacobson’s arrival will kickstart negotiations that could eventually expand to include everything from demands for compensation by Cuban-American exiles and U.S. companies to improved human rights. While the U.S. and Cuba have met for years to discuss lower-level issues such as counter-narcotics and migration, her visit is the first to test Obama and Castro’s pledges to bolster relations.