Por Café Fuerte
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., will continue to renew and extend the validity of passports held by Cubans residing in the United States until December 31, despite having been unable to find a US or foreign bank willing to handle its bank accounts.
A press released published this Tuesday on the web-site of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) announced that the Cuban Interests Section had decided to temporarily extend the services that its Consular office announced on May 15, 2014 until the close of the year.
“The aforementioned services are to be obtained, directly in the Cuban Consular Office in Washington, D.C., by travel agencies with a working relationship with the Consular Office,” the communiqué specified.
Humanitarian Cases to be Expedited
Cuban authorities reiterated that humanitarian cases will continue to be expedited and that, in accordance with the migratory norms in effect in Cuba, “Cuban citizens living abroad must hold a valid Cuban passport to enter the national territory,” regardless of whether they hold another citizenship.
In May this year, the Cuban Interests Section resumed the issuing of passports and visas for Cuban citizens residing in the United States who had reservations to travel to Cuba during the summer months (from May 15 to August 31). On that occasion, Cuban authorities indicated that the initial term “could be extended in the event the implementation of the alternative solution took longer than anticipated,” as was the case referred to this past Tuesday.
The note published by MINREX insisted the Cuban Interests Section would continue to work to find “a solution that would allow normalizing the work of its Consular Office, aggravated in the current context because of the increased financial persecution by the United States against Cuba (…)”
Cuban passports are valid for six years but the island’s authorities require an extension every two years.
The dilemma surrounding the issuing of Cuban passports dates back to November of 2013, when the Consular Office, faced with the impossibility of conducting banking transactions, first shut down operations. These services, however, were resumed immediately in view of the abundance of passengers traveling to Cuba for New Year’s.
Cuban authorities were then forced to suspend consular services on February 14 after finding no banking institution willing to conduct financial transactions with the Interests Sections, as a result of embargo regulations.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington and Cuba’s Permanent Mission before the United Nations were barred from making deposits at the M&T Bank in Buffalo, New York, and were unable to transfer their operations to another banking institution.
The crisis intensified on April 24 when Cuba unexpectedly denied travel to the island to Cubans residing in the United States who did not have the required extensions stamped on their passports, stymieing the growing flow of family visits and cultural excursions to Cuba.
The United States then urged the Cuban government to evaluate alternatives with a view to re-establishing consular services in the United States and stated Cuba was not the only nation facing such a financial situation.
Below is the official press release published by MINREX.
Press Release by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C, would like to inform the recipients of the services provided by its Consular Office that, in spite of the efforts made, it has not been possible to find a U.S. or foreign bank with offices in the United States or abroad to operate our bank accounts yet, due to the regulations derived from the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. government against Cuba and the unfounded designation of Cuba as “a state sponsor of terrorism.”
The Interests Section will continue to work toward a solution that would allow normalizing the work of its Consular Office, which has aggravated in the current context because of the increased financial persecution by the United States against Cuba, manifested, among others, in the imposition of huge fines to foreign banks by virtue of the extraterritorial enforcement of the blockade, violating the International Law.
In light of the above, the Interests Section has decided, as a temporary solution, that its Consular Office continue to provide the services announced on May 15, 2014, for renewal and extension of the validity of passports belonging to Cuban citizens residing in the United States, who have made reservations to travel to Cuba until December 31, 2014. The aforementioned services are to be obtained, directly in the Cuban Consular Office in Washington, D.C., by travel agencies with a working relationship with the Consular Office.
The Interests Section reiterates that services related to humanitarian cases will continue to be expedited and that, pursuant to the Cuban migration laws in force, Cuban citizens living abroad must hold a valid passport to enter the national territory.
August 19, 2014