Cuba

Díaz-Balart seeks to ease consular services for ‘non-regime’ Cuban nationals

Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart with Senator Marco Rubio.
Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart with Senator Marco Rubio. AP

Florida Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart has sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to improve U.S. consular access to “non-regime Cuban nationals seeking U.S. entry.”

In the letter sent out earlier this week, Díaz-Balart praised the efforts of the Trump administration to pressure the Cuban regime but called attention to certain issues that are affecting the Cuban community, especially defenders of democracy and human rights on the island.

Among the issues noted in the letter is the Cuban Parole Family Reunification Program (CFRP), which has been halted since September 2017, following health incidents with U.S. personnel in Havana that resulted in the evacuation of 60 percent of the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

A report by the Miami Herald revealed that there are approximately 22,000 beneficiaries whose cases are pending further processing abroad.

“President Trump and his administration have implemented a strong U.S.-Cuba policy by imposing tough sanctions, cutting off the revenue that would be used to oppress the Cuban people or be used to oppose U.S. interests in places such as Venezuela,” Díaz-Balart explained.

“I have expressed concerns to the administration regarding issues with the visa process for Cuban nationals in the past. The lack of staff, required travel to a third country, and pause of the CFRP program have made applying for lawful U.S. entry exceedingly burdensome,” he added.

The Cuban-American lawmaker asked Pompeo to carry out an evaluation to improve access to consular services for those Cuban citizens who are not ideologically associated with the Havana regime.

“I will continue to work with the administration on improving consular access for non-regime Cuban nationals seeking U.S. entry,” he said.

Díaz-Balart thanked the Trump administration for lifting the suspension on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and cutting off what it considered “abuses” at the end of the cruise trips to Cuba. “The president and his administration have shown remarkable leadership in strengthening policy toward Cuba with tough sanctions that deny resources to the Cuban military, and promote outreach to the Cuban people,” Díaz-Balart explained in his letter.

The congressman pointed out that he had previously sent letters showing the concern of his voters about the situation of family reunification procedures and visas to the United States. Their voters, Díaz-Balart wrote, are alarmed by the ease with which artistic groups such as Los Van Van obtain visas to travel to the U.S. while families find it very difficult and expensive to pay for family reunification procedures. .

“In regard to the CFRP in particular, some have already paid fees, scheduled appointments, and undergone the necessary medical examinations at considerable personal cost that adversely impacts my constituents,” added Díaz-Balart, who considered it “inconsistent” with the current Trump administration policy that individuals sympathetic to the Cuban regime have more facilities to travel to the United States than Cubans “who do deserve it.”

A phone call interrupted Maydelin Alfonso Vázquez's monologue in the lobby of the Montecarlo Hotel, about six blocks from the U.S. embassy. Some of the Cubans staying there while they waited for U.S. visas listened to her litany of difficulties.

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