During the last few weeks some of our fellow nationals have been facing difficulties when attempting to travel to countries of our region under the new requirement of obtaining a visa to visit to or travel in transit through some of them. This is a complex situation that is being closely followed by the Cuban government and has multiple causes.
Since 2017, the government of the United States has unilaterally and unwarrantedly failed to comply with the commitment entered into in 1994 of guaranteeing a legal migration to that country for a minimum of 20 000 Cubans every year. As that country decided to cancel the immigrant visa services offered by its embassy in Cuba as from October, 2017, the few thousand Cubans that the US authorities have admitted every year since then, are now forced to travel to Guyana to complete these procedures, without any guarantee that they will be granted a visa and with the consequent cost and burden this entails for every potential migrant.
As is well known, throughout all these years, the government of the United States has fully enforced – and significantly reinforced- the economic blockade aimed at breaking our economy, reducing the living standards of Cubans, provoking scarcities and damaging the level of consumption and the services the Cuban people depend on. This is a policy that was strengthened during the most critical moments of the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, which also coincided with the negative impact the pandemic had on the world’s economy.
Added to all this is the fact that since the 1960’s, the US migration policy towards Cuba has been legally supported by the Cuban Adjustment Act, whereby every Cuban citizen arriving in that country is offered, almost automatically, the possibility to adjust its migration status one year after having arrived in that country and become a permanent resident.
This is a privilege that is exclusively reserved to Cubans, which obviously contributes to foster in the minds of many the belief that, being a Cuban citizen means to be entitled to migrate to the United States and be admitted in that country regardless of the ways and means used to achieve that purpose.
That legislation is accompanied by an extremely biased and demagogic policy that for decades has established that every Cuban who may arrive in the US territory would so because he or she is subject to political persecution or has a ‘credible fear’ of returning to its home country. However statistics clearly show that the number of Cuban travelers coming from the US territory to visit Cuba is steadily growing every year.
All of these are factors that encourage migration, particularly irregular migration, whose final destination is the United States, at a time when legal ways are shut down, as has been happening since 2017, and as has happened in former decades or in the past.
Those realities largely explain the legal and irregular migration flow of Cubans through countries of the region, particularly Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, thus putting an additional burden on those nations and their governments and straining these countries’ relations with the United States, which are already weighed down by the high migratory potential of their respective populations.
They likewise explain the arrangements made and pressures exerted by the US government in order to see to it that transit countries adopt measures against Cuban migrants and impose visa requirements, something they did not do in the past, including transit visas, which will purportedly be required from Cubans with permanent residence in other countries.
Besides, in a slyly manner, Washington is going to great pains to hinder the processing of the new visas at the embassies accredited to Havana, with the purpose of increasing discontent among the Cubans who have been affected by such measures. Such procedures contrast with the traditional and veiled encouragement whereby migrants are induced to travel through these territories and arrive, by irregular means, to the southern land border of the United States, where their entry into that country is facilitated.
It is cynical to force Cubans to travel to Guyana to have their immigrant visas processed while at the same times arrangements are being made to impose the requirement of obtaining a transit visa to travel through a third country on those who intend to arrive in Georgetown, while the work at the US Consulate in Havana remains suspended or is very limited.
Cuban migrants are currently facing the traditional and permanent encouragement to migrate to the United States; the refusal of that country to process in Cuba the 20 000 annual visas they committed to grant under the bilateral agreements; the burden of a tightened blockade that affects their standards of living and creates in them the illusion of a prospective prosperity in the United States, which add to the pressures on the governments of the region to impose visa requirements on those Cubans who hope to take advantage of the permanent encouragement to migration to the United States.
This is a reality that is also being suffered by those Cubans whose only purpose is to go on temporary travels or visits to countries of the region, with no intention whatsoever to migrate.
Many a time visa applicants are forced to buy an air ticket as a condition to apply for a transit visa, without any guarantee of being granted such a visa or being reimbursed in case the visa is denied.
The Cuban government has addressed these issues both directly and via diplomatic channels with the government of the United States. It has expressed that the US current behavior is abusive against potential Cuban migrants; inconsistent with the bilateral agreements that have been signed; harmful to the countries of the region and an encouragement to illegal, irregular and unsafe migration both by land and by sea. The Cuban government has reminded the US government that the current US President promised his own voters that he would redress non-compliance with the migration accords -as was initiated by his predecessor-, which still persists and negatively affects migrants and their relatives.
At the same time, the Cuban government is in contact with the governments of the region, whose sovereign migration regulations it observes. Nevertheless, it is requesting them that such regulations are applied against Cubans without discrimination; that they are announced with due notice, within reasonable implementation terms and providing an opportunity to ease the burden on those who have already incurred costs and entered into commitments based on the certainty that they would be able to travel without any visa requirement.
It is absolutely unfair to subject Cuban potential migrants to the changes of behavior of the US government, force them to incur additional costs and, in the worst case scenario, lose significant sums of money that had already been committed. It is equally abusive to force potential migrants to incur air tickets and travelling arrangements costs without them having any guarantee that they would travel, all the more so when this requirement is discriminatory against Cubans.
The most obvious of the situation described above is that it is in no way different from the traditional destabilizing policy of the United States against Cuba and the efforts to use the people as hostage of a hegemonic and hostile ambition against our country and our government. Neither is this situation in the least different from the historical contempt for the countries of our region, which the US intends to use to put pressure on Cuba and, during an electoral year, face the migration challenge in its southern border, whose immigrants it submits, as has been its customary practice, to discriminatory, racist, degrading and abusive treatment.
Havana, March 24, 2022.