23 May 2012

Romney slams Castro US visa decision

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Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has criticised the Obama administration's decision to grant Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, a US visa as 'greatly disturbing'.

US visa

Ms Castro will address a conference in San Francisco on sexual diversity in Latin America this week.

The decision to grant Ms Castro a US visa has already prompted outrage from some within the Republican Party, including Floridian Senator Marco Rubio, has proved extremely controversial and now Mr Romney has expressed his discomfort with the notion of a member of the Communist regime in Cuba, especially a member of the ruling Castro family, entering the US.

"We shouldn't be extending an open hand to a regime engaged in the systematic and flagrant denial of basic human rights," said Mr Romney in a statement.

"While the Cuban regime engages in a fierce crackdown on dissent and continues to unjustly imprison one of our own citizens, [journalist] Alan Gross, the Obama administration should be welcoming the daughter of a dictator.

"The United States should be standing up for those on the island who are risking their lives fighting for freedom."

The former Massachusetts governor's comments have been echoed by others within his party.

"It is reprehensible, unacceptable and it is greatly irresponsible of the administration to allow these high level Communist Party regime officials to come into the United States on these PR tours, pro-regime public relations tours," said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart.

"While repression [in Cuba] is increasing, this administration is giving visas to the highest levels of the Castro dictatorship, because I don't know who gets higher than the daughter of the so-called president of the terrorist regime."

The Obama administration has responded to the criticism by claiming MS Castro's visit can be separated from ideological differences between the two nations which have maintained a difficult relationship since the Castro family seized power over five decades ago.

"We don't link visa policy in cases like this to our larger political and economic and human rights relationship with countries," said a spokesperson for the American State Department.

US immigration policy is murky at best when it comes to Cubans; while Cuban immigrants can remain in America if they make it to the mainland, any asylum seekers found offshore are returned to the communist nation in a policy  known as 'wet feet, dry feet'.

The American government has traditionally rejected visa applications from Cuban officials but this policy has eased under President Obama.


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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