USA Issues 100% More Visas to Cubans

The US Interests Section building in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — US authorities granted more than 32,000 visas to Cubans in the last fiscal year, said today in Havana, Edward Alex Lee, a State Department Undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Within the framework of the Cuban immigration reform, the US has received more visa applications, said Alex Lee. He noted that Washington granted in the fiscal year ending September 31, 2013 “more than 32,000 tourist and work visas” to citizens of the island. “That’s an increase of 100 percent,” Lee added.

A year ago, the Castro administration implemented a reform that eliminated the exit permit required for decades on Cubans seeking to travel. In response to the measure, the United States also began in August to give multiple visas for up to five years for temporary travel to Cuban citizens.

The two countries have had decades of complex relations regarding immigration issues. The Cuban government traditionally accuses Washington of encouraging mass emigration from the island with its fast-track permanent residency policy for Cuban refugees.

Alex Lee met in Havana on Thursday with a Cuban delegation for a new round of migration talks. Although the US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba over half a century ago, the countries maintain a timely dialogue on various issues. The contacts have intensified under President Barack Obama.

“The tone of the conversations was very frank,” said Alex Lee. “We have differences of views in some important areas, but also the attitude of both teams was constructive,” he said .

The two countries resumed dialogue on migration issues in July 2013, after two years of hiatus. The meetings have been held since 1995, after the “rafters crisis” a year earlier. The next round will be held in the US this coming summer, confirmed Lee.

Havana from the heights. The US Interests Section building top/center. Photo: Caridad

Havana hopes to reach a new immigration agreement to substitute the one signed in 1994. Since then, Washington promised to grant 20,000 visas each year to Cubans wishing to emigrate.

On Thursday, the island’s delegation again criticized the US immigration laws for Cubans, which they say encourage illegal migration and human trafficking.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, passed in the 60s and the “wet feet, dry feet” norm from 1995, gives Cubans the right to fast-track US permanent residency even if they arrive illegally. They only have to touch US soil (dry feet). If they are caught at sea (“wet feet”) they are repatriated to Cuba .

With approximately 1.5 million residents of Cuban origin, based mainly in Florida, the United States is the country with the largest Cuban exile community.

13 thoughts on “USA Issues 100% More Visas to Cubans

  • January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    I didn’t say the Jamaicans don’t hustle and hassle tourists. And of course there is poverty in Jamaica. I said that Jamaicans offer something to sell to tourists, while Cubans simply ask for handouts. The idea of making something of value that a foreigner might want to buy is not very common in Cuba.

    I’ll give you a couple more examples. While touring a sugar plantation in Cuba, I was surprised to see they had nothing to sell to the busload of Canadian tourists. No handcrafts, not even any sugar or candy. I asked the Cuban tour guide why not, and he looked puzzled as if the notion had never crossed his mind.

    When you do find something for sale to tourists in Cuba, there’s always the tacky image of Che plastered over everything, along with pamphlets about the Five Heroes. You can’t even escape the propaganda in a trinket market.

    In recent years, the gov’t started to allow a few markets to open up. But as soon as they began to be successful, the State moved in to harass them, to take their cut or to put them out of business. It’s not hard to see why the entrepreneurial spirit is so weak in Cuba. It will get you in trouble.

    Now there are reports that many of the more upscale paladars are woned by people with connections to the MININT. Penultimos Dias has revealed that “Star Bien,” one of those famed (and supposedly “private”) Havana “paladares” featured in travel magazines, is owned by the son of Cuba’s Minister of the Interior, General Abelardo Colome Ibarra.

    Thus we see the so-called economic liberalization in Cuba is nothing more than a scheme for directing money into the pockets of the elite.

  • January 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Your view of Jamaica is badly is badly flawed.
    I’ve spent a great deal of time there especially in Negril and living with Jamaicans and not at the resorts where the view of real life in Jamaica is not seen.
    The goods at the craft markets are highly repetitive because any successful product is quickly mimicked to the point that you see the same thing over and over again.
    Any higgler attempting to sell his/her wares near even the poorer resorts is quickly run off and if unlicensed, has his/her wares confiscated by the often plain-clothed tourist police that patrol the beaches.
    There is constant begging and hustling on Jamaica’s public beach areas and unwary tourists are fleeced like sheep should they wander too deep into the craft markets .
    You could not lie out on a public beach for any length of time without being asked to buy trinkets, illegal black coral, and all manner of drugs .
    The unemployment and poverty in Jamaica are staggering and with tourism as only one of about three resources that Jamaica has, there are far too many Jamaicans trying to sell the same stuff to far too few people.
    Get you self out of your all-inclusive tourist hotel and see the real Jamaica from a Jamaican perspective.
    Tourists should not be hassled and hustled to the extremes that I KNOW they are in Jamaica where capitalism rules and poverty reigns .
    That said, I never gave any peddler a hard time, understanding the poverty that drives their need to hustle the tourists .

  • January 13, 2014 at 11:15 am

    The BBC is part of the capitalist corporate media and reflect the overall views of both their own government and their own corporate media just as NPR and PBS in the U.S. are reflective of desires and thinking of their wealthy foundations and individuals who sponsor them .
    The BEEB presents a far wider but just as shallow view of the world and like the U.S. corporate media effectively bans left ( not liberal not progressive but left) thought from being aired in any equal fashion and specifically because it directly contradicts the common “wisdom” of these for-profit media .

  • January 13, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Until very recently, Cubans needed an exit visa to leave the island legally. A year ago the Cuban gov’t changed that rule and the exit visa is no longer required, however, Cubans still need to obtain a passport, which costs a great deal of money relative to the average Cuban salary, and many are still denied permission to travel abroad for a variety of reasons. So while you can say the gov’t is less restrictive now, the right to travel is hardly free and open. After all, why do baseball players, doctors and ordinary workers continue to leave the country illegally?

    Also, the Cuban gov’t still requires Cubans outside of the country to pay regular fees to keep their passports valid. If they fail to pay these fees, they will face difficulties when the return to the island.

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