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CUBA - USA - Travel Warning

CUBA - USA - Travel Warning

It’s a shame that they continue to throw up obstacles preventing two countries that are so close to engage culturally,” said Yaylen Vilches, 26, the manager of El Dandy, one of Havana’s most popular private restaurants. “This doesn’t just hurt us; they’re hurting people in both countries.”

The State Department’s decision to stop issuing visas in Havana indefinitely leaves thousands of Cubans in limbo. Washington typically grants 20,000 immigrant visas a year to reunite Cubans with relatives in the United States, and thousands more to enable students, academics and tourists to travel.

“This will have many repercussions,” said Harold Cárdenas, a popular Cuban blogger who recently started a master’s degree program in international relations at Columbia University. “The most immediate is it will perpetuate estrangement, not just political, but physical. There will be a price, and it will be paid by Cuban families.”

The travel notice, which “warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba,” could deal a blow to the island’s tourism sector, one of its economic engines, and call into question the viability of dozens of projects under construction. Since diplomatic relations with Washington were restored, Havana has begun an ambitious program to build up its dilapidated tourism infrastructure. It announced plans to partner with international hotel chains and other investors to build hundreds of new projects by 2030, including resorts with golf courses and marinas.

Americans remain nominally barred by law from traveling to Cuba as tourists. Yet the number of American visitors increased sharply after the Obama administration relaxed travel restrictions and began allowing airlines to offer service to Cuba in 2016.

Through August, more than 475,000 American citizens traveled to Cuba this year, a 173 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Cuban Embassy in Washington. During the same period, more than 240,000 Cubans traveled to the United States, an 84 percent increase, the embassy said.

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