By Lachlan Markay
From The Foundry *
The U.S. State Department has decided to grant a visa to Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Raul Castro, the country’s President and Premier, niece of notorious Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, despite laws precluding such visas from officials of the Cuban dictatorship.
Castro Espin, who is the director of Cuba’s state-funded National Center for Sex Education, is scheduled to speak at a San Francisco conference held by the Latin American Studies Association starting May 23. A LASA spokesman confirmed that she is scheduled to attend in person.
Castro Espin’s organization is part of Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health, making her a member of the Cuban government. Speculation abounds that she is next in line to rule the communist nation after her uncle and father.
Her entry into the United States will therefore require that State waive prohibitions against visas for individuals associated with the Cuban government. In other words, State would have to proactively allow Castro Espin’s entry into the country.
Presidential Proclamation 5377, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, bars “officers or employees of the Government of Cuba or the Communist Party of Cuba” from entry into the United States.
But the proclamation also carves out exceptions to that prohibition, including official United Nations missions, and gives the Secretary of State the authority to grant waivers where she sees fit.
While State Department spokeswoman Laura Seal refused to comment on the matter, noting that discussion of individual visa applications is prohibited under U.S. law, a visa must be granted for Castro Espin to enter the country, which LASA confirmed she will do.
President Obama has also looked to restrict dictatorial regimes’ access to American visas. With Presidential Proclamation 8697, Obama banned foreign individuals who have taken part in or enabled human rights abuses from obtaining U.S. visas.
While Castro Espin herself is not guilty of such abuses, she is viciously hostile to Cuba’s dissident population, calling them parásitos despreciables – despicable parasites – and insisting that those who have been imprisoned for speaking out against the Castro regime are “mercenaries paid by Washington.”
Castro Espin’s protestations notwithstanding, the Cuban government is a systematic and egregious human rights violator, according to State’s most recent Human Rights Report on the country. The department also classifies the Caribbean regime as a state sponsor of terrorism.
As part of its continued efforts to document and push back against the Castro regime’s dictatorial rule, the Heritage Foundation will mark the 110th anniversary of Cuban independence with an event focusing on the continued violations of political and individual liberties there.
Heritage will co-host an event on May 18 with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to mark the fifth annual Solidarity Day with Cuba, an occasion to demand the full release of Cuban prisoners of conscience.
* The Foundry is a conservative policy news blog of The Heritage Foundation.