The United States embassy in Cuba resumed visa processing on the island in a very limited way, prompting an official who acknowledged on Wednesday that expanding the service was necessary, but warned that the conditions were not yet in place. .
The consular sector of diplomatic representation has been semi-paralyzed since 2017, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew its staff under the unproven allegation of a subsequent spate of sonic attacks and in the framework of tightening sanctions against the Caribbean nation. took. ,
Currently there is a record of irregular migration from the island to other countries, especially the United States. Business manager Timothy Zuniga-Brown reported in March that the reopening of family reunification cases would happen in May.
“We are pleased that our limited resumption of immigrant visa processing in Havana is well underway,” the embassy posted on Twitter. “We look forward to being able to process many more immigrant visas in the future and continue to expand our consular services in Havana.”
The shutdown of consulate operations forced Cuban citizens to schedule their appointments for travel or family reunification visas through Guyana, a situation that was exacerbated by airport and flight closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dramatically complicated.
A State Department official who was not authorized to be quoted by name told The Associated Press that the “limited visa processing” was for a category called IR-5s, which are issued to parents of US citizens.
He said the chosen category recognizes the “unique age, health and mobility challenges” that these applicants present, but “given the current circumstances” the embassy cannot accept others. He added that the rest of the travel procedures to get to the United States should continue through Guyana.
Although President Joe Biden’s administration has opened the possibility of new officials traveling to the island to perform consular work, it is still unknown when more personnel will be sent.
Biden promised during his election campaign to resume the policy of Barack Obama, also a Democrat, who promoted rapprochement with the island and recognized the futility of sanctions.
However, the president did not change his policy and during the pandemic—in the midst of a strong economic crisis with food and medicine shortages—he announced new measures against the Cuban government, which he accused of not respecting civil society. charged up.
According to the United States Customs and Border Protection office, there were 79,800 arrests of Cubans at the land border in the past six months, a little more than double the number for the entire fiscal year—October to September—2021 and five times more than in 2020. .
Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP