Withdrawal of personnel and suspension of visas
The United States indefinitely suspended today the issuing of visas to Cubans from its embassy in Havana, and asked U.S. citizens to not travel to Cuba when it affirmed it cannot ensure their safety after the “attacks” suffered by at least 21 Americans posted on the island.
“On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the U.S. embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. Until the Cuban government can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm,” says the press release of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The remaining personnel in the embassy will only carry out emergency services, such as tasks to help U.S. citizens in need. The routine work of issuing visas for Cuban citizens will not be carried out in Havana. The officials will soon direct the Cubans seeking to travel to the United States to request visas in embassies or consulates of other countries.
The embassy announced days ago that it would limit the consular services until further notice, “due to the damages caused during the passage of Hurricane Irma”:
The press release adds that “the Department has issued a Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Cuba…. We have no reports that private U.S. citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens. The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure.”
Just in January 2017, the number of travelers from the United States arriving in Cuba was 43,200, which represents a 125 percent increase with respect to 2016, according to the Cubadebate website. To this it would be necessary to also add some 31,000 Cuban Americans, 78 percent more than 12 months ago. Between January and May, there were 284,565 U.S. visitors, practically equaling the amount in all of 2016.