Cuban columnist says bribes get U.S. visas, American diplomats say not true
July 1, 2013 -- Updated 0110 GMT (0910 HKT)
- A Cuban newspaper columnist says U.S. visas can be had for money
- But the columnist offers no details of alleged payments
- U.S. diplomats challenge the claim
- They say the application process has sped up, that they don't promote illegal travel
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A columnist in Cuba's main government-run newspaper Friday accused employees of the United States diplomatic mission in Havana of accepting bribes for visas, charges that American diplomats challenged.
The columnist, Nestor Garcia Iturbide, wrote in the state-run Granma that U.S. consular officials were in the "business of denying visas" to promote dangerous and illegal travel as well as a side business selling visas.
According to Garcia Iturbide, "to receive the visas some people pay off officials" during secret meetings arranged outside the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, but he offered no details of the alleged payments.
U.S. officials countered they have sped up the application process and don't promote illegal travel.
More Americans are visiting Cuba
"The United States supports safe, legal, and orderly migration, and encourages intending immigrants to consider the legal options that may be available to them instead of risking a dangerous and illegal trip via raft or other route," U.S. diplomats said in statement issued Friday.
The statement said that U.S. officials take allegations of corruption seriously and urged anyone with information about alleged visa payoffs to report it to U.S. authorities in Havana.
Under migration accords with Cuba, the United States gives at least 20,000 Cubans a year visas to immigrate to the U.S. legally. But the U.S.'s so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy means Cubans who reach U.S. soil are not sent back to Cuba, which Cuban authorities say leads to an increase in illegal journeys.
Thousands of Cubans also apply for tourist visas to the United States but have to prove that they have long-standing ties on the island that would prevent them from remaining in the United States.
In February, Cuba removed a long-standing requirement that forced Cubans to have an exit visa before they could travel abroad.
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
Today's five most popular stories