US renews issuance of immigrant visas in Cuba

Havana, May 3 (EFE).- Cubans seeking visas to immigrate to the United States were seen standing in line outside Washington’s embassy in Havana on Tuesday for the first time since 2017, when the mission sharply curtailed consular services.

For more than four years, applicants from Cuba have had to travel to the US Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, for their interviews.

While the embassy made no formal announcement that visa interviews were resuming on Tuesday, US charge d’affaires Timothy Zuñiga-Brown said two months ago that processing of immigrant visas would begin again in May as part of a “gradual expansion” of consular services.

The Cuban government hailed the plan as a “step in the right direction.”

The embassy subsequently said that the expansion would begin with applicants for the IR-5 visa, a category open to parents of US citizens.

Cubans who filed applications for IR-5 visas after April 1 were told that their interviews would take place in Havana rather than Georgetown.

The embassy cut back consular services after drastically reducing staff amid a spate of health complaints from diplomats stationed in Havana.

Under then-President Donald Trump, the US government ascribed what became known as “Havana syndrome” to a “sonic attack.”

Ultimately, similar symptoms would be reported by hundreds of US diplomats and intelligence personnel serving in various countries and in a report issued in January, the CIA said that it found no evidence any of the health problems resulted from action by foreign governments.

Cuba describes the virtual suspension of consular services at the embassy “as the first act of the Trump administration’s policy of hostility” toward the Communist-ruled island.

Trump undid much of predecessor Barack Obama’s normalization of ties with Cuba.

The resumption of visa processing in Havana comes amid a surge in the number of Cubans seeking to enter the US illegally via Central America and Mexico.

Nicaragua, an ally of Havana, does not require visas of Cuban visitors.

More than 47,000 undocumented Cuban migrants have been intercepted in the last five months, according to figures from US Customs and Border Protection.

The Cuban government places the blame for unauthorized migration on the US, accusing the US of failing to hold up its end of a series of bilateral accords dating back to the mid-1990s. EFE


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