EEUU reanudará la emisión de visados migratorios en Cuba/US to beef up staffing at Havana embassy to ease visa backlog

LA HABANA.-Estados Unidos reanudará la emisión de visados de migrante en La Habana tras un parón de cuatro años, anunció este jueves el encargado de negocios estadounidense en Cuba, Timothy Zúñiga-Brown.

El diplomático explicó en un encuentro con medios de comunicación que la decisión es parte de una «expansión paulatina» de las funciones consulares de la embajada de EE. UU. en La Habana.

Según un comunicado, la reactivación de estos servicios consulares será «limitada» y «tan pronto como sea posible», aunque no se especificaron plazos.

Mientras tanto, agregó la nota, el principal centro de procesamiento de las visa migratorias para cubanos seguirá siendo la embajada de EE.UU. en Guyana.

«Los servicios de visado de inmigrante son una vía segura y legal para la reunificación familiar», apuntó el comunicado.

La embajada indicó asimismo que está incluido en una «expansión más amplia» de sus funciones para facilitar el diálogo diplomático y con la sociedad civil.

La legación diplomática redujo al mínimo la actividad consular en Cuba en 2017 a raíz del denominado «síndrome de La Habana», unos problemas de salud que afectaron a parte de su personal.

El origen de estos síntomas aún no se ha aclarado, pero el Gobierno estadounidense los achacó entonces a un ataque sónico del que hizo responsable a las autoridades cubanas.

La decisión supuso el principio del fin del período de «deshielo» bilateral promovido por el presidente de EE. UU. Barack Obama (2009-2017) y el inicio del distanciamiento del mandato de su sucesor, Donald Trump (2017-2021).
EFE

US to beef up staffing at Havana embassy to ease visa backlog

Move will address a more than four-year backlog of requests for immigration visas by Cubans with family in the US.

The United States embassy in Cuba has announced it will increase its staffing and resume some visa processing, several years after the administration of former President Donald Trump slashed personnel numbers following a spate of unexplained health incidents.

The top US diplomat in Havana, Timothy Zuniga-Brown, made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday.

The embassy “will begin the limited resumption of some immigrant visa services, as part of a gradual expansion of the embassy’s functions”, Zuniga-Brown said.

The deployment of additional consular officers to Havana is a result of President Joe Biden’s ongoing review of Cuba policy. It will begin to address a more than four-year backlog of requests for immigration visas by Cubans with family in the US.

It also marks a rare step by the Biden administration to ease restrictions on Cuba that were imposed by Trump, who rolled back the historic rapprochement overseen by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

The scaled-back operations delivered a major blow for Cubans wishing to emigrate to the US as it forced most people to travel to Georgetown, Guyana for interviews.

Amid the worst economic crisis in Cuba in 30 years due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Cubans hoping to emigrate to the US have either taken boats headed to Florida’s coast or trekked through Central America in an attempt to cross through the US-Mexico border.

But the US has sent the majority back to Cuba under a pandemic-era health order.

A US Embassy statement issued after Zuniga-Brown’s announcement stressed a “limited resumption of some immigrant visa services” in Havana.

It added that Cuban immigrant visas will still be processed mainly at the US embassy in Guyana, while Havana will focus on other consular services and “limited emergency non-immigrant visa processing”.

Trump sharply scaled back embassy staff in the Cuban capital in 2017 after some became ill with what has become known as “Havana syndrome“.

The unexplained illnesses first affected US employees in Havana but later cropped up in other parts of the world.

The Cuban government has long denied any involvement or knowledge of the incidents.

Ahead of the US announcement on Thursday, the Cuban government issued a statement slamming the Trump-era policy as unjustified and harmful to US-Cuba ties.

“Over five years, that decision has had very damaging consequences for the entire Cuban population, as well as for Americans,” the statement said.

aljazeera.com