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Visa-free Cuba-SVG travel suspended

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Visa-free travel between Cuba and St Vincent and the Grenadines is to be suspended for four months next year.

The visa abolition programme which St Vincent and the Grenadines has with Cuba, Nigeria and other countries is to be suspended because of a requirement by the International Cricket Council for Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2007, and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is an unhappy man because of it.{{more}}

He thinks it is a biased and lopsided dictate considering that other countries, some of which do not display the same solidarity as Cuba, will not require a visa.

From January 15 to May 15 the nine Caribbean CWC 2007 venues will become one space and a common CARICOM visa costing US$100 will be issued for those countries requiring visa.

Citizens of Canada, USA, Britain, Europe and others do not require visa but Cuba is one of the countries which ordinarily would require an entry permit; but because of the vibrant nature of bilateral relations where the communist Caribbean state has been one of the financial, educational, and technical props of the Vincentian economy and society, government had waived visa requirements but is now required to suspend that waiver because of World Cup Cricket.

“I found that proposal entirely unacceptable and I made the point that if I had to choose between World Cup and such a proposition, that is to say if I had to be in a situation where I had to (require visas for) people who will come and build the airport here, or doctors who will go to Sandy Bay or somewhere else, other health workers or other persons…” he said trailing off, “I find that unacceptable.”

However, Gonsalves said he actively worked on a compromise at the last Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and they have agreed to waive the fee and issue permits through the Cuban Foreign Ministry for these workers.

Asked whether his concern was an overstatement considering that there aren’t droves of Cuban tourists lining up to fly to CWC 2007, he said that was not the focus of his concern but rather it was the way in which the entire thing was handled.

Instead of there being a consultative process, there was a note verbale to Cuba, he said. A note verbale is formal diplomatic communication delivered orally to an official representative of another country.

“I don’t think my concern is overstated,” he responded at a news conference Monday. “I actively worked on the compromise and I am not saying that the compromise is not workable for that limited period, all I am saying is that I wish we did not have to work on a compromise, that is the point I am making.”

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