Cubans frustrated over US move to end five-year visitor visas

A man pushes a refrigerator on a dollie past the U.S. embassy, behind, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 March 2019

Cubans frustrated over US move to end five-year visitor visas

  • Tens of thousands of Cubans had used the five-year visitor visa to travel, often repeatedly, to the United States

HAVANA: The Trump administration’s move to end five-year visitor visas for Cubans has left residents of the island angry and frustrated that it will be even harder to see their relatives, shop, or undertake cultural and academic exchanges in the United States.
The State Department on Friday said the measure, which became effective on Monday, was taken for reasons of reciprocity because Cuba currently issues only one-time temporary visas to visitors.
Tens of thousands of Cubans had used the five-year visitor visa to travel, often repeatedly, to the United States. They now can only get a visa that is valid for one trip during a three-month period.
Carlos Saladrigas, a Cuban-American businessman and head of the Cuban Study Group, which advocates engagement with Cuba, said ending the visa program was mean and counterproductive.
“It will cause great harm to Cuban civil society, the very sector driving changes to the island’s political and economic structures,” he said.
US President Donald Trump has pledged to end the detente and engagement policy that was begun by the Obama administration in 2016 as part of its effort to end more than five decades of hostility between Washington and communist-run Cuba.
The US embassy in Havana is operating with a skeleton crew because of an outbreak of mysterious health problems among its diplomats, and last year it shut down most councilor services, forcing Cubans to seek visas in third countries such as Mexico.
The Trump administration says the US diplomats were the targets of “attacks.” Cuba has denied any involvement or knowledge of what caused the illnesses, whose symptoms included tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, headaches and fatigue.
Cuba on Saturday blasted the reasoning behind the US visa change, saying it issued visitor visas immediately in the United States, while Cubans had to spend large amounts of money and time to travel to third countries, and then often were rejected.
“My five-year visa runs out next year and I cannot afford to travel to Mexico every year just to try to get a one-time visa,” said Marlen Calabaza, a retired telephone operator who visits Pennsylvania to help her daughter and five grandchildren.
“I feel worse for her than for me,” she said.
Yosmany Moudeja, who runs a small business helping Cubans fill out forms near the US embassy, said his only customers now were people seeking permanent residence in the United States.
“If before it was difficult, now it’s impossible. If before people came to get visas to visit, now there is no one,” he said.


Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

Updated 6 min 4 sec ago

Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

  • North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days
  • Kim Jong un has urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies ‘armed to the teeth’ while attending a flight demonstration
SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a parachuting drill of military sharpshooters and vowed to build an “invincible army,” displaying more defiance even as the United States and South Korea called off their own exercises to create space for nuclear diplomacy.
The report Monday by the Korean Central News Agency came hours after President Donald Trump in a tweet urged Kim to “act quickly, get the deal done” while hinting at another summit, writing, “See you soon!”
At an Asian defense ministers’ conference in Bangkok on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States has indefinitely postponed a joint military exercise with South Korea in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea. Diplomats have been pushing to resume stalled nuclear talks ahead of Kim’s end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to salvage the diplomacy.
North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days. A report Saturday said Kim urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies “armed to the teeth” while attending a flight demonstration.
KCNA published photos that showed Kim posing with North Korean air force sharpshooters and soldiers who used white parachutes to land on a training field.
Kim while supervising the drill said it’s “necessary to wage a drill without notice under the simulated conditions of real war” for improving his military’s war readiness and build it into an “invincible army,” KNCA said. Kim did not make any specific comment toward Washington or Seoul in the report.
North Korea has been ramping up missile tests and other military demonstrations in recent months in an apparent pressure tactic over the talks.
Negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam, which broke down after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim issued an end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal while saying that the North would seek a “new path” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.
Working-level talks last month in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude.”
North Korea last week said the United States has proposed a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations in December. But North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil didn’t clearly say whether the North would accept the supposed U.S. offer and said the country has no interest in talks if they are aimed at buying time without discussing solutions.
He said the North isn’t willing to make a deal over “matters of secondary importance,” such as possible US offers to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted by a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, or establish a liaison office between the countries.