HAVANA, Feb. 9th Several job announcements recently posted on the official website of the US Embassy in Havana have renewed expectations for an early reopening of consular services on the island.A US official source privately told 14ymedio that “even before the events of July 11, they were already studying the reopening of part of the consular services in Havana.” Likewise, and regarding remittances, the same source said that they are trying to find “a different path than the one the Cuban regime wants to impose”.
The official did not specify when these services would be reestablished, but the offer of jobs for security personnel, cashier’s assistants and travel and transportation supervisors indicates that this could occur in the first half of this year.
On Thursday, Cuban-American congresspeople Mario Díaz-Balart, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez signed a letter addressed to President Joe Biden, in which they express the need for the full reestablishment of consular services on the island.
In the letter, the three Republican representatives from Florida also request that priority be given to Cuban human rights defenders and advocates for democratic change, and to those with urgent humanitarian or medical needs.
“It was particularly insulting to many in our districts when agents of the regime and their favorites, such as professional baseball players, were able to access consular services on the island, while the vast majority of the most deserving Cubans were forced to travel to a third country at considerable expense,” they say in their text.
Salazar, Diaz-Balart and Gimenez also suggest that applicants be carefully screened to ensure that no human rights abusers can enter the United States.
They also asked Biden to resume as soon as possible the management of applications for the Cuban Family Reunification Permit Program (CFRP), which was put on hold in 2018, following health problems suffered by US diplomats and mission staff due to the so-called “Havana syndrome,” which so far is unexplained.
To remedy the situation, the congresspeople noted, they introduced the bipartisan Family Reunification Modernization for Cubans Act of 2021, which authorizes the State Department in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, to resume processing CFRP applications.
The lawmakers also urged the president to carefully consider how security and other non-US personnel are selected at the US mission in Cuba.
The closure of consular procedures in Havana has forced thousands of people to travel to third countries to carry out their procedures there.
“My sister has been in Guyana for several weeks waiting for the interview to obtain her family reunification visa; that trip and the stay have already cost us $4,000,” Niurka Gómez, a Cuban living in Miami, explains to this newspaper.
“The closing of the consulate has mainly affected the Cuban people, made the whole process of travelling more expensive and separated families. I don’t think it has been positive for anyone,” Gómez adds.
Several dissidents and activists consulted by this newspaper agree that “never has US diplomacy been more subdued on the island” in relation to civil society, cultural activities and other events. The two rooms that offered Internet access to Cuban citizens have been closed for several years and the library has not provided service all this time either.
Near the Embassy, very close to Havana’s Malecon, life also seems to have come to a standstill and even declined. The private businesses in the area that used to sell snacks, watch over bags and fill out consular forms have closed down or are barely surviving, having been converted into other services.