Cuban Interests Section suspends consular services

cuba-bloqueo5CUBA STANDARD — Citing problems to find a new bank after it was dropped by its previous U.S. bank, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington announced it suspended consular services.

“Due to this circumstance of force majeure, the Cuban Interests Section is forced to interrupt consular services, starting November 26, 2013, until further notice,” the Interests Section said in a press release today. “Consular services will only be provided for humanitarian cases and others of specific nature.”

The suspension will affect Cubans in the United States seeking to renew or obtain a passport, U.S. citizens applying for a visa, and anyone seeking authentication of documents. The shutdown will have a “negative impact on family visits, academic, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and other kind of exchanges between Cuba and the United States,” the Interests Section warned.

The suspension could impact family travel by Cuban Americans, who depend on consular services.

In July, M&T Bank, a New York state-based regional bank with a strong presence in Maryland and Washington, told both the Interests Section — the equivalent of a Cuban embassy, in the absence of direct diplomatic relations — and the Cuban permanent mission at the United Nations in New York that it would no longer provide services to foreign missions.

“It has been impossible for the Cuban Interests Section to find a U.S. or international bank with branches in the U.S. to operate the bank accounts of the Cuban diplomatic missions,” the Interests Section said. The release suggested the Cuban diplomats had sought contact with the State Department to overcome restrictions imposed by U.S. sanctions on direct financial transactions, and appealed to the State Department to meet the commitments of the Vienna Convention on  Diplomatic Relations and the 1977 agreement between the U.S. and Cuba that established Interests Sections in Havana and Washington.

The Obama Administration has imposed record fines on international banks for doing business in US dollars with Cuba.

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