HAVANA – They had already sold their house and planned to travel to the United States a month ago. Leoany, 26, and her husband Ramon, 46, have had their lives on hold since the US government decided to freeze the issuing of visas at its legation in Havana.
Like thousands of Cubans in the final phase of the US Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP), applied for by Ramon’s brother who lives in Miami, they only needed their passports sealed with the US visa to be able to travel.
Today they’re breathing a sigh of relief after the US State Department announced this week that it will maintain the Family Reunification Program, which allows permanent US residents to request that their relatives in Cuba be allowed to settle there, though it is not known when or how it will be reactivated.
“We’ve already sold everything, that’s why we’re so scared. We even sold the house and we’re living with my mom while we wait,” Leoany told EFE, adding that fortunately she hasn’t yet quit her job at a nursery school.
Residents of Pinar de Rio, at some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Havana, they went to the US Embassy to see what was happening – and got the response everyone in their situation gets these days: they’ll have to wait until the embassy gets in touch with them.
Also anxious are Yanelis and her son Pablo, 14, who suffers from a degenerative muscle disease. They had an interview booked to get their permit to travel, but were put off “until further notice.”
With his parole from Cuba requested by his father who lives in Texas, Pablo regretted from his wheelchair the “inhumane decision of President Donald Trump” and hopes to be able to move soon to the United States and receive the medical treatment available there.
“Let’s hope everything is fixed soon because we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. We’ve already spent so much money on all this paperwork,” said Pablo, who has not seen his father for three years.
Since last Sept. 29, when the US announced the withdrawal of 60 percent of its diplomatic personnel from Havana in response to a strange series of “acoustic attacks,” the legation only attends to emergency matters and has frozen the concession of new visas.
Since then, thousands of Cubans – 106,351 according to the daily El Nuevo Herald – find themselves in a bureaucratic limbo, with procedures half done while they wait for a solution to their situation in an embassy drastically short of personnel.
Meanwhile, the Family Reunification Program is expected to be reactivated while the issuing of tourist visas looks improbable, though it was the mechanism that many Cubans used to be able to visit their families abroad.
After paying the $160 for each application, Ana and her husband wanted to travel to Miami as tourists to spend a month with their two children, who left Cuba 17 years ago.
“We had the interview scheduled for yesterday, but they told us that the interviews are suspended and no more appointments are being scheduled,” said Ana, who had traveled 520 kilometers (320 miles) to Havana from her native Camaguey.