Thursday, July 19, 2007

Round two on the migration accords

When the U.S. Interests Section said that Cuba was blocking the delivery of “supplies to improve visa facilities” and thereby contributing to the consulate’s inability to issue the agreed-upon 20,000 immigrant visas this year, I thought they were talking about office equipment.

Not so. The State Department spokesman says Cuba has held up delivery of 28 shipping containers that are needed to address “U.S. concerns about building and operational safety” and to ensure “the safe and timely operation of the U.S. Interests Section.” Sounds like a construction or renovation project. He reiterated that Cuba is not allowing the Interests Section to hire local personnel to fill vacancies in the consulate, and he added that maintenance workers have not been granted visas to travel to Havana to fix consulate equipment.

Meanwhile, the Cuban foreign ministry’s Josefina Vidal “categorically rejects the affirmation by the U.S. Interests Section that we are obstructing the work of that office.” Visas for consular personnel have been granted, the santiaguera says, approvals have been granted for importation of materials to remodel the consulate, and Cuba believes the detained containers may contain materials for “subversive work in support of the counterrevolution in flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention.”

Whom to believe?

1 comment:

leftside said...

It appears clearer now to me that the dispute is not over any relevant USIS migratory personnel or equipment needed for the purposes of the accords, it is another game of tit for tat.

The Cuban FM spokeswoman provided numbers that 18/20 positions dealing with migration have been filled, and that visas for the other two are being processed. Cuba this year also granted visas to eight temporary U.S. workers assigned to migration related tasks.

"Cuban authorities have granted all of the visas requested by the Department of State for officials designated by the U.S. Interests Section to work on the implementation of the migration accords," Vidal said.

Reading between the lines, I can see that Cuba probably has not approved non-migratory personnel, ie. those working on what it considers "subversive work." It has probably also held up things like computers, radios, etc. that are used primarily by oppsoition members. 88 tons of renovation materials have been approved, but probably not things that would expand the IS's ability to engage in "public outreach" - as the US puts it.

In response the US is holding up the only card it really has to play - migration accords. I am astounded that the US thinks it is wise to go down this road. Notice the State Dept. spokesman would pointedly NOT answer the question about this was retaliatory or political in nature. If it is all about logistics, why not say so?