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US to resume some visa services in Cuba after 4-year break

March 3, 2022 GMT
A fisherman casts his lure into coastal waters near the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Chargé d'affaire Timothy Zuniga-Brown announced on Thursday that the embassy is preparing for a gradual reopening of its consular services in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A fisherman casts his lure into coastal waters near the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Chargé d'affaire Timothy Zuniga-Brown announced on Thursday that the embassy is preparing for a gradual reopening of its consular services in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A fisherman casts his lure into coastal waters near the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Chargé d'affaire Timothy Zuniga-Brown announced on Thursday that the embassy is preparing for a gradual reopening of its consular services in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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A fisherman casts his lure into coastal waters near the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Chargé d'affaire Timothy Zuniga-Brown announced on Thursday that the embassy is preparing for a gradual reopening of its consular services in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
1 of 3
A fisherman casts his lure into coastal waters near the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Chargé d'affaire Timothy Zuniga-Brown announced on Thursday that the embassy is preparing for a gradual reopening of its consular services in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — The U.S. government announced Thursday that it would resume limited processing of immigrant visas in Havana more than four years after halting that service and removing most diplomats from Cuba over suspicions they had been targeted for mysterious attacks.

The Havana embassy’s chargé d’ affaires, Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, announced that the consulate would soon begin processing some immigrant visas for which documentation already is complete, though he did not give a date.

Most visas will continue to be processed in Guyana on the South American mainland — a costly and difficult journey away for most Cubans.

Zúñiga-Brown said the U.S. is interested in “safe and legal” immigration, particularly for family reunification cases which had been complicated by the withdrawal of diplomats.

Cuba last year saw a surge in unauthorized migration attempts fueled in part by an economic crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic, increased U.S. sanctions and cutbacks in aid from Venezuela.

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Most U.S. diplomats were withdrawn from Cuba in 2017 after the administration of then-President Donald Trump accused Cuba of targeting some at the post with weapons that that caused lingering and sometimes serious brain injuries — allegations Cuba has always denied. Canadian diplomats also reported such incidents.

While the maladies came to be called “Havana Syndrome,” they were also reported by hundreds of American officials at missions around the world and even in Washington.

CIA findings released in January determined it was unlikely that Russia or another foreign adversary had used microwaves or other forms of directed energy to attack the Americans.

That conclusion was not universally accepted. A separate panel of intelligence experts said last month that several potential causes remain plausible, including the use of devices that emit beams of directed energy. The panel said some of the injuries are not compatible with psychological causes.

The uncertainty about the cause of the illnesses has added to friction between officials and those suffering from symptoms.

President Joe Biden had campaigned on easing the Trump administration’s tough series of new sanctions on Cuba, but so far has taken only limited steps toward the sort of relaxation that occurred under Barack Obama, who visited Cuba and made dealings with it far easier.