With Fewer Personnel in Havana, the US Loses its Capacity to Follow Cuban Affairs

The annual processing of 20,000 migrant visas for Cubans, by virtue of an agreement signed in 1994, will not be reached this year due to the lack of personnel, according to a report from Congress.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2018 — María Medina, a student from Pinar del Río, had the luck to be a minor when she discovered that she had been robbed of her Green Card, as well as her Cuban passport, as she got ready to board a plane to return to Miami, where she lives.

Since she is only 16 her case is considered urgent by US consular authorities and she can apply for a new document without leaving the island, according to the TV channel Telemundo 51, which reported that her parents have already flown from Florida with the necessary papers to verify her identity.

The young woman’s luck is very different from that of thousands of Cubans who need to travel to third countries to obtain a visa after the diplomatic distancing between Washington and Havana as a result of the mysterious “sonic attacks” against American diplomats on the island that brought drastic cuts to American diplomatic personnel.

The difficulties in covering the demand for consular services faced by the few American officials remaining in Havana are reflected in a recent report published by the US Congress.

“The capacity of the United States to follow the situation in Cuba, defend human rights, carry out consular activities, and comply with the bilateral agreements is being undermined by a drastic reduction of personnel in the Embassy in Havana,” states Reuters, which cites the report.

The document, issued by the Congressional Research Service, affirms that the decision to reduce the number of diplomats on the island from 50 to a maximum of 18 due to the mysterious ailments that affected 26 American officials and 10 Canadian officials since 2016, means that the work that needs to be done exceeds the capacity of the officials who remain on the island.

“Because of the reduction of personnel, American officials maintain that employees often have to carry out two or three different tasks in terms of responsibilities,” reads the report, which maintains that the processing of humanitarian and diplomatic visas continues to be guaranteed on the island.

The complicated situation in the American consulate seemed to worsen this month when the US State Department announced that the limited personnel still on the island will remain in Cuba for only a year instead of two, as they were assured at first. “This makes the continuity of operations and familiarity with the work in Cuba difficult,” claims the report.

According to Reuters, citing the official report, not one refugee visa has been processed so far this year, now that the office charged with doing so is closed, while last year it processed a total of 177 visas of this kind, often granted to citizens who claim to be persecuted by their governments.

The annual processing of 20,000 Cuban migrant visas, by virtue of an agreement signed in 1994, will not be reached this year due to the lack of personnel, according to the report.

In part this is because the applicants must travel to Guyana to carry out the process, a situation that the Trump Administration affirms will not change until the issue of the mysterious attacks on the diplomats has been solved.


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