HAVANA ( Associated Press) – The United States on Wednesday began expanding visas at its consulate in Havana, one of the most significant approaches since President Joe Biden took office and a series of unexplained health incidents among staff. after. Capital of Cuba since 2017.
The reopening comes in the midst of a migrant record of thousands of Cubans moving to the neighboring country by land – via Mexico’s northern border – and by sea via perilous journeys on rustic rafts or crossing straits. The ones come through smugglers. Florida.
Earlier this Wednesday around 200 people gathered in a park near diplomatic headquarters to attend appointments called by US officials – by phone or mail – or to find out how to obtain visas, for five years Something impossible when Washington’s growing sanctions practically halted consular activity.
An official with lists in his hands called people to enter the consular building.
“Traveling to Guyana meant expense and stress for Cubans, length of stay… discomfort,” Mirtha Caridad Revuelta, a 60-year-old entrepreneur from the central province of Matanzas, told The Associated Press. Attentive. His daughter has lived in Florida for seven years and he looks forward to reconnecting with her.
A few meters ahead, Olivia Santana, 58, a hospital worker, waited with her granddaughter to send off her son, who had already been called in for his interview and for whom the flight to Guyana had come as a shock. If she did not want to make the perilous journey through Central America and Mexico to enter the United States. “Since you didn’t know when the situation was going to settle, you had to go,” Santana said.
Multiple attempts by the Associated Press to comment on the US embassy reopening were not immediately returned.
Consular services were suspended in September 2017 after US officials withdrew their staff from the headquarters over a series of alleged attacks of unknown origin that left diplomats ill. To date, the origin of the officers’ malaise has not been found, while similar symptoms – dizziness, headache, buzzing – have been reported in other world capitals.
The personnel departure was an early start by the administration of former President Donald Trump to press for changes to Cuba’s political and economic model.
The increase in pressure, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its own inefficiencies led to a strong economic crisis on the island over the past two years, and with it an increase in emigration.
“That (reactivation of consular operations) will potentially reduce illegal immigration and help people move more safely to the United States,” said 59-year-old technician Ariel Arzuaga. US and was deported from Panama in 2018. Now he was looking for information to restart his process.
Trump froze travel and remittances, began cracking down on third-country companies dealing with Cuba and ships carrying oil, and cruise ships, among more than 400 measures during his four-year term. Permit cancelled.
Despite his campaign promise to return to the thaw initiated by Barack Obama, Biden has done little to change policy in this first phase of his administration, although he has called for a first consular reopening between May and June 2022. Done, but limited.
In 2021, US officials said that Biden’s delay in revising the Cuba policy was due to arrests and prosecutions by Cuban officials following several protests over the economic situation and some demands for political changes.
In November, during a visit, the Under Secretary of State, Rena Bitter, agreed with her Cuban counterpart to resume consular activity as a “guarantee of safe, regular and humane migration”, the US State Department said. Said.
According to a report by US border officials, during the fiscal year running from October 1 to September 30, 220,000 encounters with Cuban citizens were reported along the southern line with Mexico and 6,182 were intercepted at sea.
Cuba described America’s attitude as positive.
Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP