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"New Chapter" in US-Cuba ties

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  • Mr Tinkles
    Lets not hide behind the facts Landreth, you Scum

    Current USA Strategic nuclear warheads: 1750

    Who's first Landreth...Thailand?

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  • S Landreth
    I’m not a smoker, but some friends are. Where we got them while in Cuba and how we got them back to the states.

    More later.

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  • S Landreth
    About the picture below.

    Originally posted by S Landreth View Post
    If I remember right it was taken from an apartment owned by a Cuban artist. I forget his name but I think he had a website where you could purchase his art. Some nice art work (sculptures also) but mostly related to the countryside. Not for me.

    While looking around in the apartment I noticed a sculpture that had some tracks of a small bulldozer imbedded in it. I called attention to it and he was so delighted. With the help of our guide he told me how the Russians had sent over some heavy equipment but most of that equipment (including farm equipment) had deteriorated and repair parts were almost impossible to get. Farm and heavy equipment lay dormant in the Cuban fields today.

    I have a feeling the artist is doing well with friends like our guide who would help promote his work.

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  • S Landreth
    Handful of pictures but this time inside and on the grounds of Hotel Nacional de Cuba where tourists are welcome. Nice place but away from the center of activity.

    (more) Later a story about the first picture I posted on the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

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  • S Landreth
    ^That was the Hotel Nacional de Cuba (more about it later):

    I think this is the hotel. Hotel Inglaterra

    I was told by our Cuban guide (maybe bias) the hotel we were staying at (Saratoga) was the second nicest hotel in Havana,………but the nicest was the Inglaterra and for our next visit we should stay there.:

    Trip Advisor doesn't agree with her.

    Little information,....Why we/I had a guide. Our guide told me that she had to be with me at all times during our visit (outside the hotel), but the Thai girlfriend could travel without her. A policy/rule for Americans but not Thai visitors. We/I went out without her on many occasions while there. Rules

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  • S Landreth
    Located all of my Cuba holiday pictures.

    More later

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  • S Landreth
    Cuba, the “new normality” and economic uncertainty

    Havana has been the last Cuban region to join a three-stage de-escalation that had already started two weeks ago in almost the entire country, and is the only place where there is still a drip of cases, less than ten a day on average.

    Restaurants, beach and public transportation but with mask and distancing: since this Friday all of Cuba is officially in the recovery phase and once the battle against the coronavirus has been won, the next challenge will be to overcome the serious economic crisis affecting the island, aggravated by the pandemic.

    Havana has been the last Cuban region to join a three-stage de-escalation that had already started two weeks ago in almost the entire country, and is the only place where there is still a drip of cases, less than ten a day on average.

    With 2,361 infections of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to date and 86 deaths, Cuba has managed to keep the virus at bay compared to other countries with a similar number of inhabitants, thanks to a strategy based on the tracking and immediate isolation of confirmed and suspicious cases and their contacts.

    The capital had been waiting impatiently for days for the green light to officially join the rest of the country in the recovery, although unofficially, as many Cubans have ironically been saying lately, the city “had been in phase 1 for more than a month.”

    Finally, the sea

    And the fact is that for weeks it was obvious that in the streets of Havana there was much more traffic, too many people, and even children playing. Confinement was never compulsory, but the authorities had asked the population to only go out for what was essential and they wrongly trusted that the absence of public transportation would limit mobility.

    Among the restrictions that were lifted in the capital is going to the beach and swimming pools (with limited capacity), activities highly anticipated by Havana residents to cope with the overwhelming heat of the Caribbean summer.

    The beaches near the city did not wake up crowded, but there were many young people and children who, in small groups of family or friends, went to enjoy the sand and the sea on this first day of de-escalation.

    “I had been waiting for it since a long time ago,” Ulises, a 17-year-old student who has spent the last three months at home, studying and helping his mother with housework, told EFE. Like his friend Harrison, 14, for whom the day was “perfect” and who is also looking forward to visiting the family he has not seen since the start of the measures to curb the pandemic.

    Jessica, a 19-year-old librarian, claimed that she couldn’t sleep the night before because of the excitement since “I hadn’t gone out for four months and wanted to get to the beach early,” while Mildred Rodríguez, a 45-year-old telecommunications operator was also “waiting anxiously” and wanted to go the first day in case the coronavirus cases increase and restrictive measures are decreed again.

    “We’re used to walking”

    Another expected return is that of public transportation, in a country where very few people can afford to buy their own car.

    The buses started rolling again this Friday with limited capacity and Havana residents, who for weeks have walked indescribable lengths and also dusted off their bicycles, once again lined up at the bus stops, a typical image of the city ​​that the pandemic erased for three months.

    “We were walking a lot with the problem of transportation restrictions, today it is starting to improve a little bit,” Héctor Rómura, a 77-year-old fisherman returning home after spending the night fishing, told EFE.

    And the fishermen have also returned to the Malecon in Havana, the most beloved and crowded place in the city, deserted since the end of March.

    Belkis Ortiz, a 50-year-old housewife, spent the time in wait with humor as she recalled these weeks without transportation, “we Cuban are used to walking, making do….”

    The gradual revival also includes in this first phase the reopening of bars and restaurants, although those in the private sector―the famous “paladares”―are taking it easy and not all of them have made an immediate comeback.

    Among the concerns of this non-state sector that has flourished in recent years is that of a shortage of supplies. In Cuba there are no wholesale markets and they must supply their businesses in the same state businesses as the rest of the population, but the shortages and capacity limitations have caused long lines and hours of waiting to buy basic need products.

    Like the mask, hygienic measures or social distancing, “the lines are also here to stay,” Cubans are saying caustically these days, putting the blame on an economic crisis, yet another, which is increasingly exacerbated.

    The country’s already lack of foreign exchange, intensified by the decrease in Venezuelan aid and the new U.S. sanctions, has worsened with the pandemic, which forced the paralyzation of the tourism sector, one of the main sources of income for both the state as well as the self-employed.

    During this first phase of reopening, Cubans will be able to practice local tourism, but regular flights and the arrival of foreign tourists will not resume with normality until the third phase.

    In the second phase in which almost the whole country entered this Friday except for the capital and neighboring Matanzas, charter flights are allowed only to the keys on the north and south coasts of the island, without visitors having access to the rest of the country or contact with the local population except with hotel workers.

    The authorities have not established a fixed calendar for phase changes, which will depend on the evolution of the sanitary and epidemiological indicators of each province.:

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  • S Landreth

    US diplomat slams Trump’s ‘feckless’ policies on Cuba

    “The administration’s hypocrisy is breathtaking,” wrote US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

    In a scathing editorial published Tuesday in the Miami Herald, DeLaurentis, who supervised the Barack Obama administration normalization with Cuba, said the current policy towards the island is “feckless” and based on “domestic politics,” On Cuba News reported.

    DeLaurentis, who led the US legation in Cuba between 2014 and 2017, said the Trump administration is wrongly deporting Cubans seeking asylum, limiting the ability of Cuban-Americans to send remittances to the island and restricting trade opportunities and travel.

    He criticized that those who direct the “maximum pressure” policy towards Cuba know it will not lead to a regime change, that rather “it strengthens Cuba’s (and Iran’s) hand in Venezuela, with Russia and China occupying the vacuum we left behind,” the report said.

    He regretted that “they nevertheless continue down this path, trying to manipulate an important political bloc understandably frustrated and impatient for change on the island they love.”

    DeLaurentis was a key actor in the bilateral rapprochement process initiated in December 2014 by former President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, which took a complete and devastating turn under the Trump administration, the report said.

    The diplomat called the current government’s approach “a hollow imitation of a policy that failed the United States for nearly 60 years.”

    “Meanwhile, hardliners in Cuba smile from ear to ear. They know how to deal with this playbook exceedingly well; it is far more comfortable for them than engagement,” he wrote.

    With the reestablishment of bilateral relations and the opening of the US Embassy in Cuba in July 2015, DeLaurentis became Charge d’Affaires, the report said.

    Obama formally nominated him as ambassador to Cuba in September 2016, but the Republican opposition, which controlled both Houses of Congress, declined to put that appointment to a vote, and DeLaurentis was never confirmed.

    DeLaurentis stressed in the editorial that Obama’s policy increased the flow of information to, from, and within Cuba, and that Cuba’s private sector, which now represents 15% of the GDP, was dynamic and growing, the report said.

    “Living conditions for the Cuban people, especially those courageous enough to venture into burgeoning private enterprises, were improving. Mentalities were changing,” he said.:

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  • Boots
    Yes, the younger generations in FL are less hardline towards Cuba.

    I don't care what US policy is towards Cuba in general.

    The sonar attacks were very bad.

    I was going to do a holiday of the typical American holiday of a couple of weeks (sux) but chose Mexico instead last year.

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  • S Landreth
    Trump Defies Demographics by Courting Cuba Hardliners in Florida

    President Donald Trump’s clampdown on Cuba’s Communist government is part of an election-year strategy to keep Cuban-American voters in Florida in his column -- but it could backfire in the must-win state.

    In recent weeks the administration has issued new sanctions and ordered Marriott International Inc. to stop operations there. Those actions are part of a policy that comes from the typical playbook for a Republican president facing re-election: make an appeal to influential Cuban-Americans in South Florida who have supported the GOP for decades over their shared disdain for the island’s leaders.

    But the older anti-Communist Cuban-Americans are dying off and a more moderate generation is taking their place, so the moves could seem out of step. Younger Cuban-Americans were excited by the short-lived detente achieved by President Barack Obama -- and Vice President Joe Biden, now Trump’s 2020 opponent.

    Understanding the changes in the Florida electorate could make a difference in a closely contested race. Trump will find it difficult to get the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win the White House without Florida’s 29.

    Trump trails Biden in Florida by more than 6 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Biden leading Trump 49% to 40% among Florida registered voters.

    In April, Biden said he would “in large part” restore the previous administration’s policies toward Cuba, which Trump rolled back during his first year in office.

    Biden’s pledge “caught the White House’s attention as an opportunity to demonstrate the differences in what would be the approach,” said Jose Cardenas, who worked on Latin America issues in the George W. Bush administration.

    Trump won 35% of the Latino vote in Florida in 2016, according to exit polls, and was boosted by 54% support among Cuban-Americans in the state -- numbers he will likely need to duplicate again to win.

    Waning influence
    The cohort of voters that fiercely opposed the Fidel Castro-led revolution has seen its influence wane in recent years, giving way to a younger generation of Cuban-Americans that is generally less partisan and more interested in re-establishing the relationship between the two countries.

    Miami-area Cuban Americans continue to be predominately Republican. A Florida International University poll in 2018 found a nearly 3-to-1 party registration advantage over Democrats.

    But younger and second-generation Cuban Americans tend to be more independent. Of Cubans who migrated to Miami before 1980, 72% say they’re Republican and only 35% of those younger than 40 say they are. Only 23% of those younger Cuban-Americans identify as Democrats, and 40% are independents.

    Guillermo Grenier, chairman of the department of global and sociocultural studies at Florida International University also said newer arrivals are less strident in their opposition to Cuba. Grenier said there are clear divisions between those who fled the island in the years following the revolution and their children, who were mostly born in the U.S., as well as Cubans who arrived in the U.S. after 1995. While political engagement is higher among the older generation, the younger one is growing in number and clout.

    “Anything that will squeeze the Cuban people’s ability to have a better outcome than they’re having right now is going to backfire among the most recent arrivals,” said Grenier, who co-directs the university’s Cuba poll. “I think you have a good chance of the new arrivals being the key voting bloc this time around.”

    Fewer Cubans among Florida voters
    While Trump has made gestures toward Cubans, their historic prominence among Florida’s Latino electorate is shrinking. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, who generally lean toward Democrats, fled to Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, adding to an already burgeoning community in Central Florida.

    The number of island-born Puerto Ricans who are eligible to vote in Florida jumped 30% between 2016 and 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. Cuban-Americans made up 46% of Latino eligible voters in Florida in 1990, compared with 31% in 2018.

    Migrants from Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil have also transformed the state’s electorate. Trump’s hardline approach to both Cuba and Venezuela delivers the same electoral message: wooing voters at home by framing his Latin America policy as a crackdown on socialism.

    “The population in Miami, there are Cubans for Trump, but they’re not going to carry the day in the state of Florida,” said Grenier. “That division within the Cuban vote, plus the other Latinos who have come into the state, makes the Cuban vote just not as powerful a voting bloc.”

    Economic moves
    Nevertheless, Trump is tightening the grip on Cuba. The U.S. recently ordered Marriott to close its operations in Cuba and imposed sanctions on a military-owned financial institution that handles remittances, which could make it harder for Cuban-Americans to use Western Union Co. to send money back to the island.

    Like the vast majority of Cuban businesses, the Marriott-run Four Points Sheraton in Havana is controlled by the commercial branch of the Cuban military, which is led by former Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s son-in-law. Marriott’s license was granted by the Obama administration in 2015 but was up for renewal.

    The Marriott order won’t do much to advance the cause of democracy, according to Ricardo Herrero, executive director of the pro-engagement Cuba Study Group in Washington.

    “Cuban workers that were trained by Americans are going to lose their jobs -- temporarily, because they’ll just likely be absorbed by foreign firms that are operating other hotels on the island and now get to benefit from U.S.-trained employees,” he said.

    By pulling Marriott’s license and curbing remittances, the administration is choking off key sources of foreign currency for Havana. With oil shipments from Venezuela sharply reduced amid its political crisis and economic collapse, and with the pandemic bringing tourism to a halt in the Caribbean, Cuba is now relying on its medical missions abroad to help pay for essentials.

    In another move, the Trump administration last week made the surprise decision to nominate the head of Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, Mauricio Claver-Carone, to lead the Inter-American Development Bank. Claver-Carone is a staunch critic of the Cuban government.

    The November election is helping accelerate the announcement of Cuba moves, but the policy itself is consistent with his positions from early in Trump’s administration, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump announced in Miami in June 2017 that that he would tighten the U.S. embargo on Cuba and pull back from Obama’s detente.

    The Trump administration has been clear that the U.S. will stop deals that benefit the Cuban military and security services, who it says repress the Cuban people, subvert democracy in Venezuela and foster instability in the region, a senior administration official said.

    Trump has also considered going further in squeezing the Cuban government, such as returning the country to the list of state sponsors of terror, according to the person familiar with the matter.

    Outside advisers have recommended that the administration hit Cuba’s tourism industry harder by requiring foreigners who travel there to obtain a visa before entering the U.S., according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News. Other recommendations include slapping travel restrictions on Cuban diplomats in the U.S., sanctioning companies that invest in Cuban infrastructure and making it harder for Cuba to send doctors abroad.

    Trump trails Biden in Florida by more than 6 percentage points:

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  • S Landreth
    • On Raul Castro's Birthday, U.S. Threatens Cuba Remittances

    The Trump administration expanded on Wednesday its list of Cuban entities that Americans are banned from doing business with to include the financial corporation that handles U.S. remittances to the Communist-run country.

    In private, officials say they see this tough approach to Cuba as a means of currying favor with the large Cuban-American community in south Florida, a state considered vital to Trump's re-election chances in November.

    But this action could backfire, say analysts, as it will so openly hurt the relatives of Cuban-Americans, ordinary Cubans, more than the Communist government.

    "It is lamentable and counterproductive for U.S. sanctions to also include remittances," said Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank economist who teaches at Colombia's Universidad Javeriana Cali.

    Cubans could in normal times at least rely on money brought into the country in person but the government suspended air travel in March in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.:
    • Trump policy change frightens Cubans, shows Washington chaos

    HAVANA (AP) — A week and a half ago, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a strongly worded announcement that the Trump administration was prohibiting business with Fincimex, a Cuban state corporation that works with foreign credit card and money transfer businesses, among others.

    Many ordinary Cubans panicked.

    Fincimex handles hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances sent to Cuba through Western Union by families in Cuban-American communities in South Florida and around the nation. Would a ban on business with the military-run company mean an end to the remittances that so many Cuban families need to put food on the table?

    The State and Treasury departments wouldn’t say. Meanwhile, thousands of families rushed to send money before the ban went into effect on Friday.

    What happened next offers a small window into the chaos behind the administration’s execution of one of its top foreign policy priorities — weakening the communist-run Cuban government and its longstanding alliance with President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

    As expected, the administration published a regulation Friday in the Federal Register — the official gazette of the U.S. government. The new rule sanctions anyone doing business with military-run businesses in Cuba, including three hotels, two scuba-diving centers and a swimming-with-dolphins center at a beach resort in eastern Cuba.

    But it doesn’t mention Fincimex. That led Cuba-watchers to speculate Friday morning that the Trump administration had simply backed off its threat to potentially cut remittances to Cuba. A few hours later, the State Department said omitting Fincimex had simply been a clerical error and the Cuban company would indeed be sanctioned.

    The new regulation will not, however, actually affect Americans’ ability to send remittances to family in Cuba, according to a person familiar with the process.

    Western Union is expected to be able to continue sending money to Cuba through Fincimex even after the new ban goes into effect, the person said on condition of anonymity.

    The U.S. company declined to comment on any future regulations, saying Friday simply that “we can confirm that our business and services from the U.S. to Cuba are operating as usual and in compliance with U.S. law and regulations.”

    A U.S. bank that works with MasterCard to operate a small number of cards allowing cash withdrawals at ATMs in Cuba cut off those cards on Thursday evening, but otherwise the Fincimex ban was expected to have a minimal impact on the island, said Collin Laverty, who runs head of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the largest companies bringing U.S. travelers to Cuba. Laverty also consults for U.S. companies who want to do business in Cuba.

    Despite Western Union’s reassurances, many Cubans and their families in the U.S. have spent the last week assuming that remittances were about to be cut off in the middle of one of Cuba’s deepest economic crises in decades, fueled in large part by the near-total closure of flights in and out of the island due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Yadamis Roque is a 47-year-old homemaker with a disabled 20-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. She lives on remittances sent by her mother in Florida.

    As she waited on line outside a Western Union in Havana on a recent weekday, she said she was still assuming that her lifeline was about to be cut off.

    “I will be affected,’’ she said. “This has been a really heavy blow ... why do we have to suffer as a result of this, and in the middle of a pandemic!’’:

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  • S Landreth
    • Marriott says Trump administration ordered it to cease Cuba hotel business

    The Trump administration has ordered Marriott International to wind down hotel operations in Communist-run Cuba, a company spokeswoman told Reuters, extinguishing what had been a symbol of the U.S.-Cuban detente.

    Starwood Hotels, now owned by Marriott, four years ago became the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution in the mark of the normalization of relations pursued by former President Barack Obama.

    But the administration of President Donald Trump has unraveled that detente, saying it wants to pressure Cuba into democratic reform and to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

    The move could help Trump bolster support in the large Cuban-American community in Florida, a state considered vital to his re-election chances in November.

    “We have recently received notice that the government-issued license will not be renewed, forcing Marriott to cease operations in Cuba,” a company spokeswoman told Reuters.

    The spokeswoman said the U.S. Treasury Department had ordered the company to wind down its operation of the Four Points Sheraton in Havana by Aug. 31. It would also not be allowed to open other hotels it had been preparing to run.

    The U.S. Treasury Department and State Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

    “In 2017, Trump promised he would not disrupt existing contracts U.S. businesses had with Cuba,” wrote William LeoGrande, a Cuba expert at American University in Washington, on Twitter. “Promise made, promise broken.”

    The news comes two days after the U.S. State Department expanded its list of Cuban entities with which Americans are banned from doing business to include the financial corporation that handles U.S. remittances to Cuba.

    U.S. sanctions have further crippled an economy already struggling with a decline in aid from leftist ally Venezuela and the end of hard-currency generating Cuban medical missions in Brazil and elsewhere.

    Philip Peters who runs the business consultancy FocusCuba and had advised Marriott, said no good had come from a lifetime of U.S. sanctions that separated the U.S. and Cuban peoples, harmed Cuba’s economy, and limited American influence in Cuba.

    “Marriott ... will hopefully return to do business in Cuba, along with others, to encourage American travel and to help Cuba prosper and integrate into the global economy,” he said.:

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  • S Landreth
    Originally posted by S Landreth View Post

    Recently viewed this thread and thought I should update it. We did make it there a few years ago. Lovely place and hope well be able to return.

    Our hotel (US citizens unable to stay there any longer.)

    I should explain……..

    The Obama Administration lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances in 2009. In 2011, the Administration eased restrictions on other types of travel, including travel related to religious, educational, and people-to-people exchanges, and allowed any U.S. person to send remittances to individuals in Cuba. As part of President Obama’s major shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba in December 2014, which moved the U.S. approach away from a sanctions-based policy toward one of engagement, the Administration took actions that considerably eased restrictions on nonfamily travel and remittances. In 2015 and 2016, OFAC amended the embargo regulations five times to implement the new policy. It initially authorized travel by general license for all 12 categories of travel set forth in the CACR; eliminated traveler per diem limits; increased the amount of nonfamily remittances; and permitted other types of remittances. OFAC subsequently removed dollar limits for donative remittances to Cuban nationals; authorized people-to-people educational travel for individuals; and removed value limits for the importation of Cuban products, including alcohol and tobacco products, by U.S. travelers as accompanied baggage for personal use.

    In June 2017, the Trump Administration announced a partial rollback of U.S. engagement toward Cuba that included the elimination of individual people-to-people travel and restrictions on financial transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel. To implement the policy changes, OFAC amended the embargo regulations in November 2017, and the State Department took complementary action by issuing a list of restricted entities, including more than 80 hotels.

    Hotels controlled (major portion held) by the Cuban government:

    Where we stayed was controlled by the government - Hotel Saratoga:

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  • S Landreth
    • This thread was moved from the news section because of my last post so I should explain how the Thai girlfriend was able to visit Cuba. It was easy.

    She was required to fill out a simple Cuban tourist card, which a Miami travel agent did for us. I think at the time the cost was about 7.00 US dollars???????

    Tourist Visa (tourist card):

    The tourist visa or tourist card is only used for trips of foreign citizens who wish to make tourism to Cuba. Valid for a single entry to the national territory on a 30-day trip and you can extend 30 days at the hotel desk where you are staying or before the immigration authorities.
    Underage must have their tourist card even if they are registered in the parents' passports.

    Documents needed to obtain directly from the consulate:

    Valid passport
    Plane ticket with arrival and return date
    Must pay the consular fee stipulated for this service
    Documents needed to obtain it by postal mail

    Legible photocopy of the valid passport
    Legible photocopy of the flight ticket with date of entry and return
    Must pay the consular fee stipulated for this service
    Envelope with sufficient stamps and return address
    NOTE: If the request is made by mail or through a third person, the consular fee stipulated for this service will be charged in addition.
    All payments must be made in cash, by means of payment certified bank or bank transfer. The cash sent by mail will be rejected and returned at the risk of the applicant.:



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  • S Landreth
    Originally posted by S Landreth View Post
    When does that first boat leave from Miami? I want to be on it. My first crush (Isabell) was on a girl from Cuba.


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