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January 14, 2013

New Cuba travel rules spur lines at foreign embassies for visas

Long lines of Cubans waited outside foreign embassies and consulates as well as travel agencies early Monday on the first day of a migration reform that promise to allow more of the island’s citizens to make personal trips abroad.

The lines outside the diplomatic missions of Spain, Mexico and Italy appeared longer than the lines that form on a normal Monday to ask about or apply for visas, said one European diplomat who added that it was not possible to immediately quantify the increase.

The U.S. mission in Havana did not see any increase, however, because only those with appointments, usually set one year or more in advance, can enter the building, said another Western diplomat. Both asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

The European diplomat also reported what he called “much longer than usual” lines outside travel agencies and airline offices in the Cuban capital, with people generally seeking information about the prices and availability of airplane tickets to foreign destinations.

The new regulations for emigration and immigration, which took effect Monday, generally promise to allow more Cubans to travel abroad and permit more Cubans living abroad to make return visits.

-- JUAN O. TAMAYO

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