U.S. denies and delays visas to diplomats compelling Cuba to act in reciprocity

On November 7 at the United Nations, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla described the deteriorating scenario in the U.S-Cuba relations stating that the United States “uses falsehoods and lies as a pretext to increase its aggression.”

Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized measures that in the past months have contributed to the increasing of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that the United States has imposed on the Island for over 60 years. But, what other actions by the U.S. Government have an impact on the relationship between both countries?

Carlos Fernández de Cossío, General Director for U.S. affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accepted to talk briefly with Cubadebate on the elements that in the diplomatic arena confirm a hostile environment after the reestablishment of relations on December 17, 2014.

Fernández de Cossío, beyond economic sanctions, what other signs confirm an escalation scenario of deterioration in the bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States?

—The Minister was explicit when he described several developments that prove this escalation. It is true that the emphasis placed by him on that occasion, was associated mainly with the measures of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that seeks to asphyxiate our economy and harm the Cuban people. However, the deterioration in the bilateral relations is also present in other actions taken by the U.S. government.

Since Donald Trump´s accession to power, an influential segment within the current U.S. government, formed by several anti-Cuban sectors, is bent on reversing all the progress in the relations made during Barack Obama administration, taking the relations back to the point of utmost aggressiveness in the past and trying to place as much obstacles as possible along the way to make it difficult in the future to return or achieve any recovery in the bilateral ties.

Several fields of bilateral cooperation that had been formally agreed between the two countries have been almost paralyzed. The bilateral dialogue mechanisms are almost non-existence. Additional obstacles have been introduced to the cultural, sports and educational exchanges, and to the ties between families at both sides of the Florida Straits. There is also the fact that the operations of both embassies have been downgraded.

In 2017, the United States government unilaterally decided to draw down the staff of their embassy in Cuba, including the personnel in charge of providing consular services, and also decided unilaterally to arbitrarily and unwarrantedly expel 15 diplomats of the embassy of Cuba in the United States.

As a red flag raised almost a year ago, the embassy of the United States has been also denying visas to or delaying the visa administrative process of Cuban diplomats in our Embassy in Washington, D.C. Obviously, this damages the operation of both diplomatic missions and compels Cuba to act in reciprocity, because diplomatic relations between countries are implemented based on reciprocity.

Could these actions lead to the closing of embassies?

—We know there are people within the U.S. government, or people with influence in the government, who have promoted that intention. Some of the most extreme anti-Cuban elements have said publicly and explicitly that they seek the closing of the embassies. It is a conceived ambition since the relations were established in 2015. Indeed the United States government will try to find pretexts to justify said intent should it decide to take that step.

As for the diplomatic visas, there is no doubt that this is something that they try to present as an incident. To this date, as far as we know, it is not a decision, but we would not be surprised if that would happen in the future.

I can assure you that Cuba is fully committed to the good operation of the respective embassies in both countries, and we also hold that full commitment in Cuba with the operation of the embassies from all countries we have diplomatic relations with, in the same way we have the obligation to ensure the good operation of our embassies in every capital city. 

At any point has the escalating provocation be the initiative taken by the Cuban side?

—Cuba does not intend to take that step. It is not our intention, nor do we believe that anyone could gain anything by doing so. Our people do not gain anything nor would the American people gain anything either. What is certain, and this should be understood, is that the operation of the embassies of both countries depends on the will of both sides and is based on reciprocity. The working conditions and the staff must be reciprocal, if not identical.

The U.S. government should not expect that, by denying certain minimal conditions to the embassy of Cuba in that country, they would be guaranteed all the conditions they demand for their diplomatic mission here.

The United States refuses to grant visas to Cuban officials to perform certain responsibilities in our embassy that are analogous to the responsibilities of their officials in their embassy in Havana. This is an unsustainable situation. 

It must be understood that our country will always act based on reciprocity. We are willing to accommodate the staff requirements of the U.S. embassy so long as they are willing to accommodate the staff requirements of our embassy in that country.

There are significant security differences between Havana and Washington …

—The United States is a country where there is a lot of violence; this is well known. That is not the case of Cuba. In the United States the police authority in charge of the safety of diplomats are not always capable of guaranteeing fully the security and safety of officials from other countries or the diplomatic premises for that matter. We’ve had sad experiences in this regard. Also, it is well known the tolerance and even the complicity enjoyed by the most aggressive elements in the United States against Cuba, particularly with the current authorities.

What do you expect the next measure(s) to be that the United States takes against Cuba?

—It is logic that they take new measures against our country and against what remains of the bilateral relations, since this is something they have promised publicly. One can expect anything that intends to harm the population, trouble the daily life of Cubans, worsen its lifestyle and make life more uncomfortable. That has been the evident purpose of the measures taken throughout this year, just to mention the most recent actions. It is the sinister and original purpose with which the first measures of the economic blockade were conceived, and that purpose has not changed in these 60 years.

They can also pursue to restrict further contact or exchange between the people of both countries, and even the exchanges of Cubans who live there and their country of origin. It must be understood that they fear those contacts. They need to prevent that the majority of American citizens get to know Cuba and that they themselves deny the falsehood disseminated against this country and its people.