U.S. embassy in Cuba resumes consular services

STORY: At sunrise on Wednesday, dozens of Cubans – some who had waited years for appointments – assembled at a small park near the U.S. embassy in Havana, which resumed consular services for the first time since 2017.

The embassy abruptly suspended these services in 2017 after several of its staff were stricken with a still largely unexplained ailment dubbed “Havana Syndrome.”

It was first reported among U.S. officials in 2016 and symptoms included nausea and memory lapses.

That shutdown forced many Cubans in need of consular services to travel to Guyana for visa processing, a costly trip well out of reach for most on the island.

BARBARA NODAS, CUBAN CITIZEN: “…There are many families waiting to be reunited and it is more difficult having to go to another country."

But a record-breaking 250,000 Cubans have nonetheless left the island in the past year for the U.S., most via dangerous, irregular routes traveling overland from Central America or across the Straits of Florida in precarious homemade rafts.

Widespread shortages of food, fuel, medicine and electricity – made worse by the health crisis – have prompted scattered unrest on the island and many sought alternatives abroad.

Cuba blames the U.S. embargo, a web of laws and regulations that complicate business with the island, for crippling its economy.

The two nations have also resumed once-regular talks on migration to tamp down the flow.