Visagate: State Department responds to House Foreign Relations Chairman regarding visas for high-level Cuban officials

The Visagate scandal continues…

The State Department has sent a response tothe Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,  in regards  to the issuance of visas to Mariela Castro, the daughter of the Cuban dictator, as well as two other high-level regime officials. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen wanted to know how in the world the State Department could authorize visas for high-ranking Cuban dictatorship representative such as Mariela Castro, who ended up touring the U.S. from coast to coast defending and promoting her father’s and uncle’s brutal and murderous regime.

As could be expected from this State Department, the response is as lame and pitiful and their decision to allow Mariela Castro to conduct a nationwide tour promoting her family’s brand of repression and slavery.

The text of the response is below, a scanned copy of the original letter is available HERE:

Dear Madam Chairman:

Thank you for your May 17 letter regarding the visas issued to Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Eusehio Leal, and Mariela Castro Espin.

The Obama Administration is strongly committed to supporting the promotion of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms in Cuba, as well as the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. The President announced changes in January 2011 aimed at easing travel restrictions for U.S. persons to participate in purposeful academic, religious, educational, and cultural exchanges in Cuba. Similarly, the Administration has granted visas to Cuban civil society activists; religious travelers, and other individuals who espouse the free exchange of ideas. In adjudicating visas, we apply the eligibility standards required by law and corresponding regulations.

With regard to the visas recently issued to Josefina Vidal, Eusebio Leal, and Mariela Castro, federal laws on visa confidentially do not permit us to disclose the specifics of those individual visa determinations. We can affirm, however, that these and all visa applications are processed in strict accordance with applicable U.S. laws and regulations. For example, all applications are reviewed to determine whether the applicant is ineligible under the terrorism provision, or other security provisions, of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A visa may be issued only after any ineligibility issues are resolved. We assure you that in adjudicating visas, the State Department places the highest priority on security, foreign policy concerns, and compliance with U.S. law.

Presidential Proclamation 5377 of October 4, 1985, suspends entry into the United States of certain employees and officers of the Government of Cuba and the Communist Party. However, the Proclamation, as currently implemented, does not contain a blanket prohibition on issuing visas to government and Party officials and employees. For example, the Proclamation allows entry of Cuban officials to conduct official business at the Cuban Interests Section and the Cuban UN Mission. Moreover, under Section 2(c) of the Proclamation, the Secretary of State may designate certain cases or categories of cases to which the suspension does not apply. Secretaries have from time to time made such designations, including a 1999 designation that had the effect of focusing the Proclamation’s application mainly on high-level government and Party officials, including the Cuban President and Vice President, the National Assembly President and Vice President; Politburo members; certain high-level Communist Party officials; and senior military, intelligence, and police officials.

In addition, to the extent that the applicable laws allow for Administration discretion, decisions to issue visas to Cuban officials take into consideration reciprocity, and especially the needs of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. In this regard, temporary duty officials from Cuba and the United States are issued visas for the purpose of performing work internal to the mission. This is the normal procedure used by Cuba and the United States when seeking visas for personnel to visit our respective interests sections.

Lastly, Ms. Vidal also met with the Department officials during her visit, just as we meet with Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials when Department representatives travel there. At this meeting, as at every meeting with Cuban officials, we again raised the continued detention of Alan Gross and pressed for his immediate release. We have been using every diplomatic means at our disposal to see that Mr. Gross is released, and we will continue to do so.

We hope this information is helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance on this or any other matter.

Sincerely,

David S. Adams
Assistant Secretary
Legislative Affairs