US Embassy in Cuba to Continue Process for Visas for Immigrants

The United States government announced on Thursday it would resume the visa application process on a limited basis for immigrants in Havana, after more than four years of restricting services and removing most of its diplomats over suspicions they had been the target of mysterious attacks.

The person in charge of the Havana embassy, ​​Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, announced the consulate would soon begin processing some immigrant visas that have met the full paperwork requirements, though did not specify when the process would begin.

Most of the visa application process will still be processed in Guyana, the mainland region of South America. This incurs heavy and difficult travel costs for most Cubans.

Zúñiga-Brown said the US was interested in a “safe and legal” immigration process, especially in cases of family reunification which have been complicated by the withdrawal of diplomats. Last year, Cuba experienced a surge in illegal migration triggered in part by the economic crisis and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, increased US sanctions and reduced aid from Venezuela.

Most of the diplomats withdrew in 2017 after the US government suspected some of its staff working at the embassy had been targeted with a type of weapon that caused prolonged and sometimes serious brain injuries, allegations Cuba has always denied.

The disease which was later referred to as “Havana Syndrome” was also reported to have suffered by hundreds of American officials serving around the world.

CIA findings released in January suggested that it was unlikely that Russia or any other foreign adversary would use microwaves or other forms of directed energy to attack American and other state officials who report similar symptoms.

However, this conclusion is not universal. A separate panel of intelligence experts said last month that several potential causes remained plausible, including the use of devices that emit directed beams of energy. The panel also added that some of the injuries did not match psychological causes.

Uncertainty over the cause of the disease adds to the friction between officials and those suffering from the symptoms. [mg/jm]