Five years after it was closed on account of mysterious “sonic assaults” on diplomatic staff, the US consulate in Havana resumes full immigrant visa services for Cubans on Wednesday.
The reopening comes amid a record exodus from the communist island to the United States, mainly by undocumented migrants, as Cuba suffers its worst economic crisis in 30 years.
“The United States is working to ensure safe, legal, and orderly migration of Cubans by expanding consular operations in Havana and restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP),” the embassy stated in a press release final week.
The consulate would open totally for “immigrant visa processing,” though tourist visas remain off limits for now.
The consulate was closed under the Donald Trump administration after diplomatic staff and their families fell ill with symptoms later nicknamed Havana Syndrome.
US missions in different international locations additionally subsequently claimed to have been focused, however the actual nature of the alleged assaults stays a thriller.
The closure of the consulate meant that Cubans seeking to travel to the United States faced an expensive administrative obstacle course.
They had to travel to a third country, usually Guyana in the north of South America, to submit visa requests.
Since Joe Biden replaced Trump as president in 2021, several high-level meetings have sought to find a solution to the migratory standoff.
In May last year, the consulate resumed “limited” visa providers.
“It is an effective signal that the governments of each international locations are speaking to one another about find out how to handle migration flows in an orderly and rational means,” analyst Michael Shifter of Georgetown University in Washington told AFP.
Jorge Duany, a Cuba specialist at the Florida International University, pointed out the talks were “limited to migration issues” and didn’t point out a normal warming of ties.
The United States has had sanctions in opposition to Cuba for 60 years.
After a four-year rest through the presidency of Barack Obama, relations deteriorated below his successor Trump, who strengthened sanctions.
Despite election guarantees, Biden has not reversed the measures, in truth hardening his speech following anti-government protests on the island in July 2021 that noticed a whole bunch arrested and jailed.
Washington has stored Cuba on its checklist of international locations deemed sponsors of terrorism and just lately added it to a different of international locations undermining non secular freedom.
The Caribbean island nation was onerous hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which crippled its important tourism sector.
Remittances despatched from overseas — which in 2019 reached $3.7 billion and is one other important supply of revenue for Cubans — additionally largely dried up in current years with journey blocked.
“There is a direct hyperlink between the upsurge of excessive (US) measures in opposition to the Cuban economic system and the dramatic migratory move,” Johana Tablada, a senior official in Cuba’s international affairs division, instructed AFP in November,
Last year, Washington gave more than 20,000 visas to Cuban nationals — the first time since 2017 that it complied with a provision under a 1994 bilateral agreement to issue this number every year.
More than 326,300 Cubans — some 2.9 percent of the country’s population of 11.2 million — entered the United States illegally in the 12 months from December 2021, according to American authorities.
In 2021, during the pandemic, the number was just 39,000.
Departures shot up since November 2021, when Cuba ally Nicaragua eliminated the visa requirement for islanders, meaning many would-be migrants now fly to the Central American country to start the dangerous trek on foot to the United States.
By resuming visa services, “Mr Biden is trying to recalibrate his policy towards Cuba, seeking a middle way between Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ and Obama’s ‘rapprochement,'” stated Duany.
“But in the interim the modifications in American coverage in direction of the island have been minimal,” he added.
And according to Shifter: “For the moment the conditions are not there to move towards a normalization of relations.”
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