17 May 2012

Cuban Castro granted US visa

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Mariela Castro, daughter of current Cuban President Raul Castro, has allegedly been granted a US visa so she can speak at a conference of Latin America experts in California next week.

US visa

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, will visit the US next week to deliver a speech in San Francisco.

The US State Department would not comment on whether Ms Castro had been granted a US visa but a spokesperson for the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), who is hosting the conference, said Ms Castro's attendance was confirmed and likely she has a visa.

Ms Castro's visit to the US is significant as Cuba's communist regime has remained at significant odds with the US for over 50 years and her visit will mark a rare occurrence of a Castro visiting the US.

America has embargoed trade from Cuba since the Kennedy administration and reaction to Ms Castro, who runs Cuba's National Center for Sex Education and will be addressing the conference on Cuba's policies on sexual issues, visiting the US has predictably been divisive.

"Ms Castro is a vociferous advocate of the [Castro] regime and opponent of democracy who has defended the regime's brutal repression of democracy activists," said Senator Robert Menendez, a child of Cuban immigrants who fled Cuba.

"Neither the United States government nor the Latin American Studies Association should be in the business of providing a totalitarian regime, like the one in Cuba, with a platform from which to espouse its twisted rhetoric."

Senator Menendez said a US presidential proclamation prevented the State Department from granting visas to Cuban ministers or members of the ruling Communist Party. However, a State Department spokesperson said the proclamation also included authority to grant exceptions to the US immigration rule.

While ex-President Fidel Castro, who led the revolution to overthrow the US-sponsored regime of predecessor Fulgencio Batista and headed the country for 49 years, has visited the US several times, it is not known whether Ms Castro, or indeed her father, have visited the US before.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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