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Cubans frustrated over U.S. move to end five-year visitor visas

The Trump administration's move to end five-year visitor visas for Cubans has left residents of the island angry and frustrated that it will be even harder to see their relatives, shop, or undertake cultural and academic exchanges in the United States.

The State Department on Friday said the measure, which became effective on Monday, was taken for reasons of reciprocity because Cuba currently issues only one-time temporary visas to visitors.

Tens of thousands of Cubans had used the five-year visitor visa to travel, often repeatedly, to the United States. They now can only get a visa that is valid for one trip during a three-month period.

Carlos Saladrigas, a Cuban-American businessman and head of the Cuban Study Group, which advocates engagement with Cuba, said ending the visa program was mean and counterproductive.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to end the detente and engagement policy that was begun by the Obama administration in 2016 as part of its effort to end more than five decades of hostility between Washington and communist-run Cuba.

The U.S. embassy in Havana is operating with a skeleton crew because of an outbreak of mysterious health problems among its diplomats, and last year it shut down most councilor services, forcing Cubans to seek visas in third countries such as Mexico.

The Trump administration says the U.S. diplomats were the targets of “attacks.” Cuba has denied any involvement or knowledge of what caused the illnesses, whose symptoms included tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, headaches and fatigue.

Cuba on Saturday blasted the reasoning behind the U.S. visa change, saying it issued visitor visas immediately in the United States, while Cubans had to spend large amounts of money and time to travel to third countries, and then often were rejected.

(Production: Rodrigo Gutierrez, Anett Rios)

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