Statement by Ernesto Soberón Guzmán, General Director of Consular Affairs and Cubans Resident Abroad

In recent weeks, a group of our citizens are facing difficulties trying to travel to countries in our immediate region with the new requirement to obtain visas to visit or transit in some of them. It is a complex situation, which the Cuban government is addressing with the utmost rigor and which has several causes.

Since 2017, the United States government has unilaterally and unjustifiably failed to comply with the obligation signed in 1994 to ensure the legal migration to that country of a minimum of 20,000 Cubans each year. Since it has closed the processing of immigration procedures at its Embassy in Cuba since October 2017, the few thousand that the United States authorities have admitted each year since then, are forced to travel to Guyana to carry out such procedures, without granting guarantees and with the consequent expenses and burdens that this potential means to each migrant.

As is well known, the United States government has maintained in full force and considerably reinforced in these years the economic blockade aimed at breaking our economy, depressing the standard of living of Cubans, causing shortages and damaging the level of consumption and services on which the population depends. It is a policy that was tightened during the most critical moments of the confrontation with COVID19; also coinciding with the negative impact of the Pandemic on the world economy.

In addition to the foregoing, since the 1960s, the United States' migratory policy towards Cuba has had the legal support of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which offers every Cuban who arrives in that country the almost automatic possibility, after a year of having arrived, to adjust their immigration status and become a permanent resident.

This is an exclusive privilege for Cubans, which naturally fosters the conviction among many that, as a Cuban citizen, they enjoy the right to immigrate to the United States and be accepted in that country, regardless of the route and form they use.

This legislation is accompanied by a highly prejudiced and demagogic policy, which for decades has assumed that every Cuban who enters US territory does so because they are politically persecuted or have a "credible fear" of returning to their country of origin; when the statistics clearly show that each year the number of Cuban travelers who visit Cuba from US territory grows steadily.

All these are factors that stimulate migration, and in particular irregular migration, with final destination to the territory of the United States, when legal channels are closed, as has happened since 2017, as in previous decades or in the past.

These realities explain, to a large extent, the high legal and irregular migratory flow of Cubans through countries in the region, particularly Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, which implies a burden for those nations and their governments, and for their relationship with the United States, which already suffers the weight of the high migratory potential of their respective populations.

 

They also explain the efforts and pressure from the United States government to get transit countries to take measures against Cuban emigrants, to require visas when they did not do so in the past, including transit visas, which are even intended to be required for Cubans with permanent residence in other countries.

In addition, in an underhand way, Washington is trying to hinder the processing of new visas in the embassies accredited in Havana, with the aim of increasing the discomfort of the affected Cubans. These are efforts that contrast with the traditional and veiled encouragement for the emigrant to use those territories to irregularly reach the land and southern border of the United States, where entry into that country is facilitated.

It is cynical to force Cubans to travel to Guyana to process their migrant visas and, at the same time, arrange for a transit visa through a third country to be imposed on those who intend to reach Georgetown; while the activity of the US Consulate in Havana remains suspended or very limited.

The scenario that the Cuban emigrant faces today is that of the historical and permanent stimulus to migration to the United States, the refusal of that country to process in Cuba the 20,000 annual visas committed to in bilateral agreements, the burden of an economic blockade that affects their standard of living and gives them the illusion of a prospect of prosperity in the United States, added to which is the pressure on governments in the region to demand visas from Cubans who aspire to take advantage of the permanent stimulus to emigration to the United States.

In addition, it is a reality suffered by those Cubans who have the objective of traveling for temporary visits to countries in the region, without any purpose of emigrating.

In many cases, the visa applicant is forced to purchase an air ticket as a condition of applying for the transit visa, with no guarantee that the visa will be issued, nor the possibility of receiving a refund in case the visa application is denied. .

The Cuban government has addressed these issues directly and through diplomatic channels with the United States government. He has stated that his current behavior is abusive towards Cubans aspiring to emigrate, inconsistent with the signed bilateral agreements, harmful to the countries of the region and encourages illegal, irregular and unsafe migration, both by land and by sea. He recalled that the commitment of the current US President to his own voters was that he would correct the non-compliance with the migratory agreements, initiated by his predecessor, which still persists, which has repercussions on the emigrants and his relatives.

At the same time, he is in communication with the governments of the region, whose sovereign migration provisions it respects, but which it is requesting to apply without discrimination against Cubans, with duly anticipated announcements, reasonable implementation deadlines and the opportunity to ease the burden of those who have already incurred in expenses and commitments on the basis that they could travel without the requirement of a visa.

It is absolutely unfair to apply to the Cuban applicant to emigrate the change of behavior of the United States government and force them to incur additional expenses and, at worst, lose considerable sums of money already committed. It is also abusive to lead him to incur travel expenses and procedures without travel guarantees, especially when it is a discriminatory requirement towards Cubans.

The most evident of the scenario described above is that it does not go beyond of the traditional destabilizing policy of the United States against Cuba and the desire to use the population as a hostage of a hegemonic and hostile ambition against Cuba, and against our government. Nor does it move away from the historical contempt for the countries of our region, whom the U.S.A government intends to use for its pressures against Cuba and to face in an election year the migratory challenge present on its southern border, and whose immigrants are subject as a customary practice, to discriminatory, racist, degrading and abusive treatment.

Havana, March 24, 2022.

(Cuba minrex)

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