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
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT)
The U.S. huffing over Ukraine jars with many after recent U.S.-led interventions, writes Simon Tisdall.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 2328 GMT (0728 HKT)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is unapologetic about his government's response to opposition protesters.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
He's 12 years old and going blind -- so his parents are taking him on a trip to fill his world with beautiful images.
Track star Oscar Pistorius is accused of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Follow live updates of South Africa's trial of the century.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1357 GMT (2157 HKT)
To celebrate International Women's Day, CNN's Leading Women is inviting you to a Tweetchat.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Women journalists in the testosterone-fueled world of sports are still the target of abuse.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
Photographer Zack Seckler's series presents Botswana from between 50 and 500 feet, providing a unique view of the savannah.
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Concorde is a thing of the past, but a number of companies are racing to release the first supersonic business jet.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
From U.S. President Obama's phone call to Russian President Putin, to a python swallowing a crocodile, browse photos from last week.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Did you know that the idea to mark road surfaces reportedly came from watching a milk truck drip milk on the road?
The undersea cables wiring the Earth: this is what the Internet actually looks like.
Today's five most popular stories