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The US expands its consular services in Cuba with visas for immigrants

In this file photo, the US flag flies at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 18, 2019, days after the US State Department announced it would remove a tourist visa from five years for Cubans.  (AP Photo/Ramón Espinosa, File)

In this file photo, the US flag flies at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 18, 2019, days after the US State Department announced it would remove a tourist visa from five years for Cubans. (AP Photo/Ramón Espinosa, File)

AP

The US Consulate in Havana began processing visas for immigrants on Tuesday, a service suspended since 2017.

Four people of Cuban nationality, who had an appointment, lined up first thing in the morning at the US diplomatic mission building for this procedure, which in the last four years has only been carried out at the embassy in Georgetown (Guyana). ).

The United States embassy in Cuba, however, has not formally announced the start this Tuesday of the progressive recovery of consular services, which Efe has confirmed by different sources.

The US chargé d’affaires in Cuba, Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, announced on March 3 that the consulate would process immigrant visas again in May.

He explained that the decision was part of the “gradual expansion” of consular activity, which was expanded, although in a “limited” way and without establishing specific deadlines for the return to normality.

Then it was specified that applicants in the IR-5 category (father or mother of a US citizen) would be prioritized and that those who had applied for their visa after April 1 would have their interview scheduled at the Embassy in Havana and not in Guyana. .

US consular services in Cuba were drastically limited as a result of “health incidents” of still unclear origin that came to be known as “Havana syndrome.”

Then the US government accused Havana of being behind some kind of “sonic attack” against its personnel, something that it has not been able to prove so far. In addition, similar cases have occurred in other countries.

The Government of Cuba, for its part, then described the expansion of consular services in Havana as a “step in the right direction”.

They indicated that they were cut in 2017, “as the first act of the hostility policy of the (Donald) Trump government” (2017-2021).

The reactivation occurs amid the sharp increase in the number of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States irregularly, mainly through Central America (taking advantage of the fact that Nicaragua does not require visas from Cubans).

Data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office indicate that in the last five months a total of 47,331 Cubans entered the North American country irregularly, only in February the figure reached 16,557.

The Government of Cuba blames the United States for the increase in the irregular migratory flow and has repeatedly accused it of failing to comply with bilateral agreements on the matter.

This story was originally published on May 3, 2022 11:27 a.m.

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