CRS Details Impact of Havana Embassy Drawdown

With 14 U.S. embassy personnel left in Cuba, diplomatic operations are severely limited.

On August 16, the Congressional Research Service issued a memo to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the impact of the staff reduction at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The State Department had cut the number of embassy personnel from 50 to 14, not to exceed 18. This has led to significant overlap of staff responsibilities, forcing some staff to work outside normal business hours and straining their capacity to manage over 200 locally employed workers.

The report describes the adverse effects of staff reductions on various embassy operations, including:

  • Diminished ability to provide human rights support, including monitoring and office hours for repatriated Cuban migrants;

  • Suspension of almost all visa processing, which forces many Cubans to take costly trips to U.S. consulates overseas and burdens Cuban entrepreneurs whose business operations rely on access to the U.S.;

  • Suspension of operations by the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which will almost certainly cause the U.S. to fall short of meeting the 20,000 visa threshold set by the 1994 agreement with Cuba;

  • Dramatic reduction in refugee resettlement following the closure of the embassy’s Refugee Section, down to zero since September 2017;

  • Reduced capacity to report on and analyze political developments in Cuba;

  • Limited services for American citizens in Cuba; and

  • Difficulty maintaining 45 diplomatic residences, most of which are now vacant.

For more information on the changes regarding U.S. Embassy Havana, please see our memo on the September 29 policy update.