Cubans complain about US visa restrictions

March 18, 2019
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A man pushes a refrigerator on a dollie past the U.S. embassy, behind, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 18, 2019. The U.S. State Department said Friday, March, 15, 2019, that it is eliminating a coveted five-year tourist visa for Cubans, dealing a heavy blow to entrepreneurs and Cuban members of divided families, who used the visas to see relatives in the U.S. and buy precious supplies for their businesses on the island. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — Cubans have had widespread access to social media for just a few months, and they embraced it on Monday to bombard U.S. diplomats in Havana with complaints about new visa restrictions.

More than 400 Cubans sent comments to the Facebook page of The U.S. Embassy in Havana, largely to complain about the elimination of five-year tourist visas announced Friday.

Cubans now will need a new visa for each trip. That’s devastating for Cuba’s private entrepreneurs, who often make trips to the U.S. for supplies, and for those trying to visit relatives in the U.S.

Many also complained about delays in the family reunion program caused by a sharp reduction in consular personnel in Havana following a series of mysterious illnesses suffered by diplomats there.

A Facebook user identified as Williams Hernandez pleaded: “Ease our hearts from this sadness we experience living far from our loved ones.”

Most visa requests are rejected, and Cubans must make a costly trip to a third country like Mexico or Panama even to apply.

Cuba opened internet access to smartphones late last year and many Cubans have rapidly taken to social media.

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