14ymedio, Havana, June 17, 2021 — Barely forty-eight hours had passed since officials in Havana announced that they would not be processing travel documents or passport applications before they were forced to reverse course. The measure, adopted on Monday as part of a Covid-19 containment strategy in the Cuban capital, had generated widespread discontent
“Yes, on Wednesday we resumed procedures for issuing and renewing passports, as well as those for new ID cards,” confirmed an employee of the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Alien Affairs (DIIE), speaking to 14ymedio. “Our offices are again accepting these applications,” she added.
On Monday, hundreds of people were unable to submit applications at any of the city’s DIIE offices. They learned only upon arrival that most processing procedures for passports and identity cards had suddenly been suspended.
“People screamed to high heaven so they had to walk back the decision,” a young man told 14ymedio on Wednesday. He was applying for a new passport at the DIIE office on 17th and J streets in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood, the sole office accepting applications for special circumstances during the shutdown. “People here were as mad as hell.”
“They were telling us this through the metal gates because they were closed. They said they were only issuing passports to travelers who had already bought a ticket and were in the process of reuniting with family in the United States. The rest of us there that day couldn’t submit an application,” the young man added.
A Cuban passport is valid for six years but must be renewed twice in that period. The document is among the most expensive of its kind in the world. It costs 2,500 pesos ($100) and must be renewed every two years at a cost of 500 pesos.
The need to renew or apply for a new passport has been growing in the past year due to pandemic-related closures of several DIIE offices. The suspension of commercial flights and restrictions on entry from other countries have grounded many Cuban travelers, especially the “mules” who import merchandise for the underground market.
“This measure made absolutely no sense. To get a special exemption, they expected you to bring an airline ticket you had already bought. But how am I supposed to get a ticket if my passport is expired and I need to get a new one?” asks another applicant upon learning that the office on Castillejo Street in Central Havana was open again.
Last Friday officials in Havana imposed a new series of restrictive measures they are calling “the final offensive against the pandemic.” Among them are a ban on entering or leaving the city without authorization from provincial or national authorities, which is only granted for reasons related to work.
On Tuesday Cuba set a new daily record of 1,537 Covid-19 cases, surpassing the previous record of 1,470 infections on Sunday. Since March of last year the country has had 161,997 cases and 1,118 deaths from the virus, twelve of them in the last twenty-four hours.
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