Cuban, Us Officials Meet In Havana On Consular Services

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban and State Department officials met in Havana on Wednesday to discuss the expansion of consular and visa services on the island.

The meeting is the latest in a series of friendly exchanges between the two governments, which share a historically icy relationship.

Cuba issued a brief statement confirming the meeting took place.

The U.S. delegation included Rena Bitter, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, and Ur Mendoza Jaddou, director of U.S. citizenship and immigration Services.

The U.S. Embassy closed in 2017 following a series of health incidents. While a full reopening has yet to be announced, U.S. officials have said visa processing would resume in January.

The move comes amid the biggest flight of Cubans from the island in decades. Nearly 221,000 Cubans were encountered by migration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022. That was a 471% increase from the year before, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

A State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Washington's delegation also discussed concerns about human rights in Cuba. The official said Bitter "urged the Cuban government to unconditionally release all political prisoners.”