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Cuba to ease travel restrictions on expats wanting to visit

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addresses a news conference in Havana, Cuba, October 3, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Cuba’s government says it is planning to make it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island country and to allow the return of the Cubans who have left the country illegally.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a meeting of US-based Cubans in Washington on Saturday that Havana would authorize the entry and exit of Cuban expatriates through two international Cuban ports as of January 1, and that the children of Cubans residing outside the country as well as those born in foreign countries would be able to attain Cuban nationality.

Rodriguez also said that Cuban-Americans would no longer need to renew their Cuban passports for traveling home and would be allowed in Cuba on cruise ships that embark at one of the two international ports.

“The government of the United States closes and Cuba opens,” the Cuban foreign minister said.

There are roughly two million Cubans or Americans of Cuban origin in the United States.

Rodriguez said it was “unacceptable and immoral” for political differences between the two countries to be translated into measures affecting their nationals.

The Saturday announcement by the Cuban government came amid strained relations with Washington over an accusation that US diplomats in Havana have been targeted with “sonic attacks.” Cuba has rejected that allegation as “science fiction,” and has launched a massive probe to determine the cause of the physical harm that has mysteriously been done to the American diplomatic personnel.

Sonic attack allegations ‘political manipulation’

In his Saturday remarks, Rodriguez dismissed as “totally false” the allegations that the US diplomats had been subjected to “sonic attacks” and said the whole scenario was “political manipulation aimed at damaging bilateral relations.”

At least 24 diplomats in Cuba suffered health problems between November 2016 and August 2017, in what US officials say may have been a result of attacks carried out with some kind of acoustic device.

The US State Department said the individuals were medically confirmed to have been affected by physical harm, including hearing, cognitive, and visual impairment in recent months.

Cuba deployed nearly 2,000 security officials and experts, from criminologists to audiologists, and mathematicians, to investigate the incidents after it was informed about them back in February.

Although the investigation has not yet concluded, it has so far failed to find any evidence to corroborate the allegations of an “attack.”

Cuban officials have said the US is not cooperating with their investigation.

The US expelled 15 Cuban diplomats and recalled more than half of the American diplomatic personnel in Havana earlier in October over the matter.

Later, US President Donald Trump also accused Havana of being responsible for the physical harm done to the American diplomats.

Cuba and the US became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought the late Fidel Castro to power. They broke off diplomatic relations in 1961, and the US placed an official embargo against the country in 1962. Their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

However, the administration of former President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015.

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