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Bringing Cubans to the US on official visits

Restrictions on Traveling from Cuba to the US

Using every possible trick in the book and then some, the State Department and OFAC have virtually stopped all travel from Cuba to the US, especially for musicians and artists who are deemed to be making money for Castro: "Since most cuban artists are compensated by the cuban government, they are rightly considered to be its employees... Work financially enriches the regime, not the artist."  

The trend started with Bush's election and with a law passed by the Senate on 4/18/02 which made travel by Cuban Citizens to the US much more difficult.  As of the end of May, 2002, reports started to come in of the FBI making calls to US hosts of Cuban academics and artists asking such illuminating questions as "Is this person a terrorist?"  The point is not to investigate but to chill. 

None of this has changed under Obama.

Recession slows Cuban migration  4/30/2009 Sun Sentinel: "The number of Cubans entering the United States has dropped by more than 40 percent compared with the year before, Department of Homeland Security numbers show. It's the biggest drop in 20 years, said Luis Diaz, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. Cubans are staying put in large part because of the economic doldrums in the United States, experts say. Cuban-Americans here are telling family members on the island about the tough times, keeping them from making the dangerous trek across the water or the Southwest border desert, they said. "People here are going to say: 'Hey you know what, let the state take care of you in Cuba, as meager as that is, because I'm hardly making a living or I'm unemployed,' " said Rafael Lima, an assistant professor at the University of Miami ,who produced two documentary films about Cuba."

Orishas cancel Sunday set at Jazz Fest  4/25/2009 Times Picayune, Louisiana: "Cuban hip-hop group Orishas will not perform as scheduled at Jazz Fest's Congo Square stage on Sunday, April 26. A Jazz Fest spokesperson said the group's members, who live in Europe, were not able to enter the country."

Cuban migrants have it easier on U.S.-Mexico border  10/11/2007 Reuters: "Unlike migrants from across Latin America who trek through deserts and mountains to enter the United States, Cubans only have to show up and request political asylum to be allowed in. With the U.S. Coast Guard stemming the flow of Cubans across the Florida Straits, record numbers now head for Mexico and then travel overland to the U.S. border on routes used by hundreds of thousands of other Hispanic immigrants a year. Some 11,500 Cubans arrived in the United States this way in the last 12 months, mainly through Texas, almost twice as many as in 2005, U.S. government statistics show."

LASA 2007: Otra brecha al bloqueo imperial y un canto a la esperanza  9/3/2007 Cubarte: "Cuba, con todos los vientos en contra, ha participado en EE.UU., por tres décadas en estos cónclaves y esa tradición se interrumpió hace 36 meses, cuando las más furibundas disposiciones del bloqueo imperial, negaron en dos ediciones consecutivas, el acceso de los conferencistas cubanos, a través del reiterado recurso de negativa de visas de ingreso al territorio norteamericano. De esta forma, el intercambio fructífero del análisis desde Cuba en temas políticos, económicos, culturales y sociales y en las más diversas manifestaciones, quedó trunco. Sin embargo, la solidaridad firme y amorosa de la comunidad de intelectuales y artistas que integran esta Asociación, abrió una brecha en el muro de ese bloqueo irracional, demandando nuestra participación y ganaron la batalla al decidir el cambio de sede de estos encuentros para terceros países. La furia imperial no se hizo esperar y engendró nuevas prohibiciones para el financiamiento a los cubanos, pero ello no impidió que surgiera una verdadera red de amor continental que ha hecho posible que más de 100 cubanos, lleguemos a Montreal, Canadá, a compartir con todos, en un abrazo fraterno, el quehacer investigativo de expertos en diversos ámbitos del Arte, las Ciencias Sociales, Económicas y otras disciplinas, con una notoria diversidad que funde a los predios universitarios, los investigativos, los artísticos y los creativos. Para los cubanos es ya un triunfo de la razón y la justicia, el estallido del amor y la solidaridad, que anulan una vez más los reiterados e irracionales intentos de aislarnos en todas las esferas de la vida política, económica, cultural y social."

U.S. Again Bars Cuban Scholars From International Conference  3/7/2006 Chronicle of Higher Education: "The United States has denied visas to all 55 Cuban scholars who had planned to attend an international conference of the Latin American Studies Association next week in Puerto Rico. According to the association, known as LASA, the Cubans were informed of the decision on February 23, just three weeks before the conference is scheduled to start, on March 15. The association holds an international conference every 18 months. The decision is consistent with Bush administration decisions that have increasingly tightened restrictions against academic and other contacts between Americans and Cubans. In March 2003, only 60 of 105 Cuban academics were granted U.S. visas to attend LASA's conference in Dallas. In 2004 all 65 Cubans who had planned to attend the group's conference in Las Vegas were informed 10 days before the gathering that they would be barred from entering the United States."

What happens in Cuba stays in Vegas -- for a while  9/3/2004 AP 

Cuban show at Weisman canceled over Visa problems  8/2/2004 AP: "Museum director Lyndel King and two curators in Cuba had been working on the show, which was scheduled to open early next year, for four years. Nine artists were chosen and were expected to oversee the installation of their work and present talks in Minneapolis. Some of the artists also planned to create new artworks on site. But King said tensions between the United States and Cuba are running so high that the museum concluded it was impossible to do the show. "It was to be an exhibition with a lot of installations and, while we could have done it from the artists' plans, it's not the same," King said. "The pieces would have been lifeless if the artists weren't here for that last-minute input that makes them sing." "

Red Tape Stalling Havana Nights Show  7/30/2004 KLAS-TV, Las Vegas 

The Missing Cuban Musicians  6/24/2004 Cuba Research & Analysis Group 

EEUU decide no otorgarle la visa a un disidente  6/12/2004 Nuevo Herald: "En una decisión paradójica, Estados Unidos negó la visa al disidente cubano Dimas Castellanos, quien debía participar este mes en un evento académico en Miami… El disidente atribuyó la negativa a su postura opuesta a la política norteamericana de embargo y medidas coercitivas contra la isla. ''Estados Unidos es el único país que tiene un diseño para cambiar el gobierno cubano y nosotros creemos que la transición deben decidirla sólo los cubanos'', agregó."

Cubanismo cancels arts center show  5/12/2004 North County Times, San Diego: "Representatives of the Latin jazz-pop ensemble Cubanismo say that new U.S. anti-Castro policies are responsible for the group canceling its U.S. tour, which was to include an appearance at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, on Friday night."

U.S. Breaks Cultural Link As It Denies Visas to Cuba's Musicians  5/11/2004 Hispanic Business: "Joe Garcia, executive director of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation, based in Miami, said that while many Cuban musicians touring the U.S. are "apologists" for the Castro regime, denying them visas would have little impact. "It's a lot of smoke and no fire," Garcia said. "This is once again the policy of red-baiting to get Cuban-Americans to light up, but it's not about making substantive changes to the regime in Cuba." "

Cubanismo! 2004 US Tour Cancelled - Visas Denied  3/29/2004 Rosebud Agency: "Despite the current political climate, as well as The State Department's policy statement last February concerning musicians who have received salary from the Cuban Government, this news comes as a great shock to all concerned. NO Cubanismo musician has ever received salary from the Cuban Government. Since the group's first tour in 1993, they have never been denied entry to the US. This record of reliability was a matter of great pride for Jesus Alemany and his musicians."

Songs of Cuba, Silenced in America  3/22/2004 NYT 

Cuban artists kept out of U.S.  3/6/2004 Sun Sentinel: "The latest example is a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to cancel a visa for Cuban troubadour and rock musician Carlos Varela, days before he was to launch a U.S. tour that included a concert Wednesday in Miami… Although Varela, 38, has made a name for himself perfecting a genre that Cuban authorities once despised as an excess of North American culture -- and has a reputation as a rebel who does not see eye-to-eye with his government -- the State Department's approval of his visa was not good enough. Homeland Security exercised its veto, the singer's U.S. associates said… A U.S. Interests Section official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said recently that all Cuban visa applicants, including artists, are subject to a 1985 presidential proclamation signed by President Reagan. It bars Cuban government employees and Communist Party officials from entering the United States. During the Clinton administration, broad categories were exempted, however, including artists. "Most Cuban artists are compensated by the Cuban government and are therefore its employees," the official said. "Proceeds from the sale of materials associated with an artist's work financially enrich the Castro regime."

U.S. silences Cuban beat  2/23/2004 MSNBC: "Over the past few months, the State Department has cracked down on Cuban visitors -- specifically artists -- seeking to enter the United States. Since November, every Cuban musician who applied for a visa — 151 in all — has been turned down, including the five Grammy nominees invited to the recent awards' ceremony. The State Department denies a specific policy against musicians, although officials appear to have raised the bar for performers who want to tour the United States… "We wanted to showcase music from a new CD. I guess we’ll still ask for visas," Formel said, although he’s not optimistic. "It’s too bad because the American public is the best we have." ..."The president is trying to please Miami voters who are stuck in the past," argued Gerardo Piloto director of Klimax, the island’s top Timba band. D’Marcos however thinks like a businessman and not a politician. "Cuban musicians make the best music in the tropical world. We were the top sellers before 1959. If the doors re-open we’ll own the American market. Some people who represent Latin artists in the U.S. are terrified of the competition. They’re the reason why Bush slammed the door in our face." "

The Grammy's Most Revealing Moment  2/20/2004 SF Chronicle: "Really, the conspicuous absences at this year's awards have more to do with discrete changes in this country's policy toward Cuba during the Bush administration, and an awareness in Washington, D.C., of the significant role Florida's anti-Castro Cuban community will play in the 2004 presidential election. As Bill Martinez, a San Francisco-based attorney who worked on this year's Grammy-related visa applications puts it, "This was an affirmative act, clearly meant to send a message. It was not just a matter of the typical delays that often sink a visa application. It was an out-and-out denial, stemming not from the Treasury Department but from other agencies and individuals in the executive branch." He's referring to the invocation of Section 212F of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Law, which states that the president can deny entry to any foreigners deemed "detrimental to the interests of the United States." According to a U.S. State Department spokesman, "The proceeds from the work of these artists are considered enrichment for a Communist dictatorship." "

'Mr Ferrer can't be with us tonight'  2/18/2004 Guardian: "Artists from Muslim countries and Cuba seem to have the most difficulty - since the 1980s, Iranians travelling to the US have been fingerprinted - but the trouble extends across the continents. Pena said that Polish film-makers have refused to come to his festival because of the way they were treated on previous visits. And according to Marc Scorca, president of Opera America, opera directors from countries as uncontroversial as Italy and Spain have begun avoiding US engagements. "They don't want to put up with the hassle," he says, "which then means that American opera singers are not getting the work abroad they used to." "

U.S. denies visa to peace activist from Cuba  2/7/2004 Providence Journal: "Despite appeals by Sen. Lincoln Chafee and other members of Congress, the Rev. Raul Suarez will not be allowed to speak at the University of Rhode Island on multiculturalism."

DENYING CUBAN MUSICIANS' VISAS IS "BUREAUCRATIC NONSENSE"  2/6/2004 Congressman Sam Farr: "Today Congressman Sam Farr (CA-17), co-chair of the House Travel and Tourism Caucus and a member of the Cuba Working Group, spoke out against the decision by the Bush Administration to deny Cuban musicians visas necessary to attend this weekend's Grammy Awards ceremony. "With this latest action the Administration is taking their Cuba policy, which was already ridiculous, to the extreme of stupidity," said Farr. "To say that allowing these musicians to attend an awards ceremony could be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States' is just bureaucratic nonsense." "

Current U.S. Policy Re: Entry Of Cubans Into The U.S.  2/5/2004 AfroCubaWeb: "Since most cuban artists are compensated by the cuban government, they are rightly considered to be its employees."

Cuba say Grammy nominees denied visas  2/5/2004 Reuters: "All five nominees for this year's Grammy for best traditional tropical Latin album are Cuban musicians who live on the communist-run island. They include Ibrahim Ferrer of Buena Vista Social Club fame, lute player Barbarito Torres and "timbalero" percussionist Amadito Valdes. Officials in Cuban President Fidel Castro's government said the musicians were denied requested visas under U.S. immigration regulations barring entry to the United States of people considered a threat to its national security. The head of the Cuban Music Institute, Abel Acosta, accused the Bush Administration of blocking the visas for political reasons to please Cuban-American voters in Miami."

Additional Administrative Processing: Applying for a visa Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security & Visa Reform Act of 2002  12/21/2003 US Embassy in the UK: "Visa applicants aged 16 or over who are born in, or hold a passport from any of the following countries are required to complete a supplemental nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-157. They are also required to apply for a visa in person before a consular officer. North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq & Libya" Yet another tool to shut down communication with Cubans.

CHUCHO EN LOS ÁNGELES: UNA GRIETA EN EL MURO  10/16/2003 Jiribilla: "La negación de las visas para los artistas cubanos para ir a Miami es algo «completamente loco, absurdo. No lo entiendo», aseguró Chucho. «La música es universal». Y después de una pausa agregó: «Realmente es criminal»."

Problems with visas create roadblock for Cuban artists  10/8/2003 Miami Herald 

Actuará Ballet Nacional de Cuba en los Estados Unidos  9/26/2003 AIN: letting in the "high culture," but not afrocuban music?

No Cuban, No Problem - The Latin Grammys were 100% Cuba-free thanks to the man in the Oval Office  9/11/2003 Miami New Times: Los Muñequitos and Van Van directors banned by Bush directly as he panders to the Miami Mafia.

Maraca Tour Manager appeals for help on US Visa  7/27/2003 AfroCubaWeb: "Maraca & Otra Vision is one of the few top-level Cuban bands based in Cuba who has been extensively touring in the United States from 1998, bringing with great impact their magnificent afro-Cuban music almost everywhere there in clubs, jazz and world music festivals at the highest level, and culminating with their Grammy Nomination last February for "Best salsa Album of the Year"… Until last year, the approval notice from Washington was the most "difficult" and the most important authorization so that Cuban musicians could be delivered their visas at the US Interest Section (USIS) in Havana - once the USIS got the original I-129, visas then would be delivered there few days after its reception . Unfortunately, visas are still pending for the band, despite the notice of approval for their tour given to the USIS in February 2003 ; at that point, the band still hasn't got thru security clearances. We've been getting the invariable answer from 6 months from the USIS in Havana : "Unfortunately, we can not provide you with an estimate as to when the administrative processing will be complete (...)." They offered no additional details on why this is so delayed."

Cuba's Sierra Maestra cancels tour over travel curbs  7/10/2003 Chicago Sun Times: "We are particularly distressed by Sierra Maestra's forced cancellation because it points to the tainted politics of the 'homeland security' apparatus," said David Roche, executive director of the Old Town School of Folk Music, referring to the stricter visa rules enacted by the U.S. Homeland Security Department. "We have two other notable world-music ensembles appearing at the festival, Oliver Mtukudzi & Black Spirits from Zimbabwe and Son de Madera from Mexico. Who didn't get the clearance? The Cubans," Roche said, making an indirect reference to the Bush administration's tightening of the Cuban embargo. Since Sept. 11, many foreign artists, particularly Cubans, have been denied visas."

Sierra Maestra US Tour Cancelled  7/9/2003 AfroCubaWeb: the devious US bureaucracy does not refuse visas, it delays them beyond the point where they are needed

Visa rules could keep Cubans from Latin Grammys in Miami  5/24/2003 Miami Herald: "The issue of whether Cuban artists will perform in Miami during September's Latin Grammys looks like a dead one -- because of visa restrictions put in place after 9/11. The new rules mean that, with only six weeks between the announcement of the Latin Grammy nominations on July 22 and the Sept. 3 show, it will be virtually impossible for any Cuban artist to get a visa in time."

CLOSING THE GATES - A Cuban Scholar Shut Out  4/11/2003 Chronicle of Higher Education: "But Mr. Alzugaray was denied a visa, as were more than a third of the 105 Cubans registered for the meeting, under tighter homeland-security policies. Sixty-six Cuban scholars managed to attend, but only after a chorus of complaints from American academics, supported by several senators and other members of Congress, persuaded the State Department to issue more visas a mere week before the meeting was held. Up to that point, only nine Cubans had received visas."

US-CUBA/FILM New York's Havana film festival marred by visa troubles  3/27/2003 Hoover's: "Rosenberg said at the opening gala on Wednesday that Cuban filmmaker Julio Garcia Espinosa, who is being honored at the event, will not attend the festival because he was unable to obtain a visa. Susana Molina and Rosa Maria Rovira, members of the Cuban Cinematographic Industry and Art Institute (ICAIC) who helped organize the festival, will also be absent for similar reasons, she noted."

Cuban Scholars Blocked From Attending Scholarly Meeting in Dallas  3/5/2003 Chronicle of Higher Education: "When the Latin American Studies Association holds its next International Congress in Dallas this month, one group will be absent: almost all of the 103 Cuban scholars who had registered to attend, including 40 invited to present papers. With only three weeks to go before the once-in-18-months gathering, scheduled for March 27 to 29, only four or five of the Cubans have received an entry visa from the United States."

US denies visas to more Cubans  12/26/2002 Herald Times, Bloomington: "For the second time, representatives of Bloomington's sister city in Cuba have been denied permission to visit the United States. Four Cubans learned this month that the U.S. government had turned down their applications for travel visas for a three-day trip to Bloomington. The news disappointed members of CubAmistad, the Bloomington sister-city group, who had looked forward to repaying the hospitality they were shown in visits to Cuba."

Visa rules hurt cultural ties - New anti-terrorism screening forces cancellation of concerts  11/26/2002 SF Chronicle: "Last weekend, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, one of Cuba's most famous musical acts, was scheduled to perform in Berkeley in front of sold-out audiences. But the new visa policy prevented them from entering the United States. Other recent cancellations include the Cuban-Haitian group Desandan, which was supposed to play at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley; Cuba's Los Van Van, which had been scheduled to perform at this month's San Francisco Jazz Festival; Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, who couldn't attend the Latin Grammy Awards in September; and the Whirling Dervishes of Syria, who had to miss their scheduled performance at the L.A. World Festival of Sacred Music in September."

Tough Days for Art Festivals  10/25/2002 US Visa News: "The American Arts Alliance is pushing Congress to pass legislation which will process the admission of overseas artists in various visa categories to the United States. Festival organizers seem to be reacting with grace and dignity, acknowledging the need for increased security in the wake of the terrorists' attacks but just asking for expedited handling from the INS. Artists affected are not only those from the countries you would expect. Consider bands such as Craolba Ruh, a band from Northern Ireland, which had to cancel three performances at the Old Songs Festival in Altamont, New York. Not even Ted Kennedy could get them past the new regulations, and that says a lot these days. Russian, Iranian, Cuban, and performing artists from dozens of other nationalities are being kept out of community events that truly provide rich cultural introductions in rural parts of the United States, communities which otherwise would never be exposed to these type of events."

Protecting Us from Cuban Congas  10/18/2002 US Visa News 

Stopped at the Border  10/10/2002 MSNBC: "New restrictions signed by President George W. Bush in May have been making it impossible for many foreign artists to get into the country in time for their scheduled appearances. You might expect delays for performers from Iraq and Libya, but why Cuba, Russia and Northern Ireland? From the Afro-Cuban All Stars, a popular Buena Vista Social Club spinoff that was just forced to cancel a five-week U.S. tour, to Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who missed the premiere of his new film “Ten” at the New York Film Festival a week ago, scores of performers have found just how narrow the United States’ open doors have become post-9-11. Hardest hit have been those from seven nations designated in the new U.S. Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act as “state sponsors of terrorism”: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba. Anyone from those countries, artist or not, must now submit to lengthy background checks by the FBI. In addition, the U.S. government now requires a 20-day wait on applications from citizens of 26 countries (the State Department declines to identify them, but they are believed to be mostly Islamic nations in Asia and North Africa). Add to this brew backups at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and you have a recipe for creative constipation. It once took weeks to get a U.S. visa; it can now take six months—and no one seems to have warned artists about the delay."

Cuban Official Denied U.S. Visa  10/7/2002 Washington Post 

Negativa de visa a escritor cubano entorpece nexos con pueblo EEUU  10/4/2002 Prensa Latina 

Salvador Gonzalez Visa Delay Stops Trip to US  10/3/2002 AfroCubaWeb: by Ned Sublette. See our page on Salvador González, the famed muralist of Callejon de Hamel.

Artistic License, Revoked  10/2/2002 City Pages, Minnesota: "Danielson says that the deck was being stacked against her clients well before 9/11. In June 2001, the INS bowed to the demands of labor-starved American business and agreed to offer faster case-by-case visa processing for a fee. For $1,000, applicants would be sped through the system in a mere 15 days. (The regular fee is $130, the average waiting period up to four months). The rub, according to Danielson, is that the INS had long been in the habit of efficiently processing artists' requests--a vital accommodation, since performers often have to negotiate bookings on short notice. Under the new pay-as-you-go system, only high-buck clients get that kind of consideration. "Initially, they said they would expedite requests from nonprofits," Danielson says. "They don't. We try to send an expedite request through without $1,000, and they pay no attention. Or they send us a form telling us to send $1,000."

Visa Red Tape Is Tying Up Arts Venues  10/1/2002 LA Times: "Denying performers entry to the U.S. results in a wave of canceled concerts. One official says the cost could reach millions of dollars nationwide."

Visa Woes Cancel Cucho Valdes Concert  9/26/2002 AP 

Cuba: Stiff New U.S. Rules Make It Tougher To Visit The States  9/23/2002 Black World Today: "But this year was the first time that nominees from this socialist island nation were unable to secure visas to participate in the ceremony. Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto blamed ''a dim-witted and anti-cultural attitude on the part of some U.S. government officials.''

Foreign Performers and U.S. Gigs: Getting Here Is a Tougher Ticket  7/22/2002 LA Times: "As of two days ago, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the Cuban rumba group who has appeared many times in the U.S. over the last 10 years, had to cancel scheduled appearances at the last moment (though their INS petition was approved weeks ago) at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and in Puerto Rico and New York. Also having to cancel was Síntesis, the distinguished Cuban group celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a just-announced 2002 Latin Grammy nomination, who were to appear at various dates in August. - Ned Sublette"

Border Security Act Limits Visas to Cubans  5/22/2002 Latin America Working Group: "Very little coverage has been given to a bill, recently signed in to law by President Bush, that will further limit interactions between Cubans and United States citizens."

Border security bill heads for White House  5/9/2002 IHT: this is the bill that could make travel from Cuba to the US much harder.

Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001  4/27/2002 American Association of Community Colleges: the soon to be infamous S. 1749, introduced by Senator Kennedy, could dramatically curtail travel from Cuba by anyone who is not planning to emmigrate. Thanks, oh great white father.

BORDER SECURITY - Senator Brownback  4/27/2002 Senator Brownback's page on S. 1749 which he co-sponsored with Senator Kennedy

S. 1749  4/27/2002 Thomas: page on S. 1749 on US government site

IMPORTANT WARNING ON FUTURE VISITS FROM CUBANS TO USA  4/22/2002 AfroCubaWeb: "Cuban-Americans who want their family members to visit them in the United States can thank their "leaders" in Miami for this ban on tourist visas to Cubans. Everyone ranging from las viejitas who come once a year to artists, writers and policy makers are affected by this law."

H.R. 3525 -- Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act  4/21/2002 Senate: This act apparently includes Cuba and some version of it was recently passed by the Senate as S. 1749. Would ban travel by Cubans to the US.

New law could affect the visits of Cubans to the US  4/20/2002 Miami Herald: conflicting interpretations of S. 1749 in Miami.

Nueva ley podría afectar las visitas de cubanos  4/20/2002 Miami Herald: "Sin embargo, la regulación asegura que los secretarios de Estado y de Justicia tienen el derecho de admitir a quienes ellos consideren que no representan una amenaza para el país."

US Senate passes ban on visitors from sponsors of terrorism  4/19/2002 AFP 

US denies visas to at least 60 Cuban agriculture officials  4/2/2002 Yahoo 

Salvador González visa delay stops trip, 10/3/02

Ned Sublette, 10/3/02

I received an e-mail this morning from independent filmmaker Bette
Wanderman, whose documentary "A Cuban Legend: The Story of Salvador
González" opens at the Cinema Village in Manhattan on October 11.

Salvador González is a Cuban painter who is well known for his use of
African-derived imagery in public spaces in Cuba. He has created numerous
outdoor murals, in Cuba and internationally, including works in Philadelphia
and Harlem.

His masterwork, known to pretty much everyone in Havana, is his painting of
every available surface at the Callejón de Hamel, an outdoor performance
space in an alley in the barrio of Cayo Hueso. It is probably the most
frequently photographed piece of contemporary public art in Cuba, and was
featured on the cover of Los Van Van's "Llegó Van Van," a Grammy winner in
2000. At you
can find a page about his work, which includes an interview by Pedro Pérez
Sarduy with the following comment about the Callejón de Hamel: "Its walls
express in one form or another the feeling of African art, that is the
presence of African culture in our country. You will find here pieces of
sculpture, overhanging roofs with many colors, poetry, images. A house that
could be a temple, or that is a temple for this community. It is Black
poetry that is in each house, which is at the same time a temple."

González was to travel to New York for the film's premiere. According to
Bette Wanderman, his letter of invitation was sent on August 1. "We
thought we had plenty of time to meet requirement of 21 days for a visa. Salvador
has been here four times previously with that time frame for a visa."

Not this time. We can now add him to the growing list of visa casualties
in what we can appropriately describe as the Bush II administration's assault
on culture.

Red Tape Is Tying Up Arts Venues, 10/1/02

Denying performers entry to the U.S. results in a wave of canceled concerts.
One official says the cost could reach millions of dollars nationwide.


An epidemic of canceled appearances by foreign performers unable to secure
visas to enter the United States because of stepped-up post-Sept. 11
security checks has brought growing frustration and a mounting threat of
economic losses for performing arts presenters.

The cancellations have been considerable in Southern California alone over
the past two weeks, affecting artists from the Middle East, Cuba and Japan.
The roster includes the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, who had been
scheduled this weekend at the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles;
the Toronto-based Persian pop singer Googoosh, who was to have performed
Saturday at Staples Center; and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, who have canceled
their entire 20-date U.S. tour, including a Nov. 14 show at UCLA's Royce

Also failing to secure visas in time were the members of Hanayui, an
all-female folk music and dance ensemble from Japan that was to have
performed Saturday at the Aratani Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles.

The cancellations started cropping up this summer, ranging from Iranian
theater performers unable to appear at New York's Lincoln Center to a Welsh
harpist and Russian concert pianists who had been booked by classical music

While government officials maintain they are taking steps to rectify the
situation, members of the arts community remain dubious and are organizing a
campaign urging Congress to focus on the problem.

"The goalposts are being constantly moved" when it comes to the time
required to secure artists visas, complained David Sefton, director of
UCLA's heavily international performing arts program. "There is a sense that
it is completely unpredictable."

Others are pointing to more philosophical concerns.

"Art is not terrorism, art is the antidote to terrorism and hate," said
Mickey Hart, former drummer of the Grateful Dead and a leading figure in
world music circles, who said he intended to start raising the issue
publicly with his performance at Sunday's closing ceremony for the World
Festival of Sacred Music at the Greek Theatre. "The idea is to expose this
travesty to the American people."

Sefton estimated that each cancellation costs his program $5,000 to $30,000
in advertising and promotional costs absorbed and profits forgone, which
becomes multiplied as arts presenters nationwide absorb the losses.

"If 10 tours go down in a year, you're talking about millions of dollars in
hits across the country," he said. "We're looking at huge losses none of us
are in a position to sustain."

The Afro-Cuban All-Stars, an offshoot of the popular Buena Vista Social
Club, have previously traveled the U.S. and were scheduled to return with a
17-city tour, beginning Nov. 1 in Madison, Wis. Many of the shows were
planned for large universities that, in many instances, serve as primary
presenter of cultural programming in their regions.

The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act, enacted in the spring,
places Cuba on a list of seven nations considered to be "state sponsors of
terrorism." The other nations are Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and North
Korea. The law requires that visa applicants from those countries undergo
extra background checks, which can prolong the process.

Another post-Sept. 11 measure requires a 20-day waiting period and
heightened security checks for would-be travelers from 26 other countries;
the U.S. State Department will not say which are on the list, but arts
presenters say they appear to be predominantly Islamic countries in Asia and
North Africa.

The long-standing visa process for artists involves two steps: First, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service must determine that a performer is
highly distinguished or culturally unique--and therefore not snatching work
from Americans who could do it just as well. Then the performer must get
clearance from an overseas U.S. Consulate.

New, more stringent security checks are being applied at both steps along
the way to determine whether applicants are on watch-lists compiled by
intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon acknowledged last week that the
system was clogged at first but said things should improve because of
"better processing procedures" installed in recent weeks.

"The system previously wasn't designed to handle the new security measures,"
she said. "It took some time to put them in place, but we're able to move
them through now without compromising security."

But many arts presenters already have lost confidence in the system and fear
more problems. Four members of a loose-knit consortium of world music
presenters and behind-the-scenes operatives say they will start a campaign
this week to raise public awareness of the bureaucratic logjams that are
preventing or calling into question many scheduled performances.

"We are organizing at a national level to try to offer reasonable
alternatives that accommodate national security but avoid the trauma and
hardships" resulting from the unpredictable visa process, said Bill
Martinez, a San Francisco immigration lawyer.

Martinez has started a committee with Isabel Soffer of the World Music
Institute, a leading traditional music and dance producer in New York City,
along with Phyllis Barney, executive director of the Folk Alliance, a
nonprofit service organization in Maryland for folk arts presenters, and
Alison Loerke, a Seattle-based agent for world music acts.

They plan to propose new regulations granting special visa-expediting
consideration for foreign artists who have proven track records of
successful, law-abiding touring in the United States, especially when they
are being booked by well-established presenters.

"Artists who have been here 15 times and been written up in every major
paper--to all of a sudden start questioning their backgrounds is a little
backward," Soffer said. "I think having a separate category for artists is a
practical step."

Many of the artists who have had to cancel shows recently because of visa
problems have performed here before, including Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo
Milanes and the popular dance band from the same country, Los Van Van. The
expatriate Iranian singer Googoosh performed at a sold-out Great Western
Forum in 2000.

Jan Denton of the American Arts Alliance, a lobby for performing arts
presenters, said her group is proposing legislation to help small nonprofit
presenters who can't afford the $1,000 fee that the INS has required for
speeded-up visa processing since June 2001. If the INS did not act on their
visa applications within a month, Denton said, the nonprofit presenters
automatically would get the faster 15-day "premium" treatment for free.

Sam Chapman, chief of staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer, said congressional
staffs have intervened in the past for arts presenters with visa problems.
But he said there is nothing they can do now when an applicant is hung up in
security clearance checks.

"We get calls like this regularly," he said Friday. "We've seen so much of
it that it's worth raising at a higher level" within the State Department,
to see what might be changed to improve the process.

Sefton, the UCLA performing arts director, said that visa woes have been a
time drain as well: He and three of his staff members spent the better part
of a week recently trying to get the visa process unstuck for some European
performers in his international theater festival. "They're all coming now,
but all normal work grinds to a halt."

Normal decision-making on what acts to book is going out the window too.
Sefton said an agent called him last week hoping he would book artists from
the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music for next season.

"It's from Morocco, and I think, 'We won't get them in,' " Sefton said. "It
makes me think about not booking certain major, respected artists. I think
if nothing changes and I've lost five or six tours this season, when I come
to confirm things for next year, I'll have to make drop-dead financial
choices on whether I can take the risk. That's a despicable position to be
put in."

One area presenter has received some good news. Dean Corey, director of the
annual Eclectic Orange Festival in Costa Mesa, said that Friday was "a lucky
day"--it appeared that visa problems had been solved for three Moroccan
horse riders and a Cuban dancer whose absence probably would have
jeopardized the performances of Theatre Zingaro, the international
equestrian troupe that is the festival's cornerstone event, with a 20-show
engagement starting Oct. 12.

Visa trouble for visiting performers, 9/26/02

Posted on Thu, Sep. 26, 2002

By Tanya Barrientos
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

Booking a foreign performer in the United States has become a nerve-racking
experience for arts organizations caught in the web of tightened national

Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés last week canceled his U.S. tour, which would
have included a stop at the Annenberg Center on Saturday, because he
couldn't get a visa in time.

And Laurence Salzmann, the producer of Festival Cubano, to begin next
Friday, said he had doubled the Philadelphia dance-and-music celebration's
run to five weeks to ensure that the Ballet Folklorico Cutumba had time to
satisfy Immigration and Naturalization Service requirements to enter the

While all visa requests have been under increased scrutiny since Sept. 11,
2001, the State Department announced in May that citizens of seven
countries, including Cuba, would undergo more rigorous investigation.

A State Department spokesman said yesterday that travelers from a second
batch of countries had recently been red-flagged. But because the government
won't reveal the nations, promoters don't know how much time to allow for
visa processing. And the Lancaster (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra is left
wondering whether Chilean conductor Luis Gorelik will be able to make his
scheduled appearance in November.

"It's not as if you can hand people a handbook," says Heather Watts, of the
American Symphony Orchestra League. "These security procedures change from
day to day."

The State Department announced this week that it had worked through a
months-long backlog of visa requests. New requests will typically take two
weeks. However, people from countries the department considers a security
risk require FBI clearances that take far longer.

Already many artists have missed events.

One highly visible example occurred last week when all 22 Cuban artists
nominated for Latin Grammys, including Valdés - who has performed in the
country dozens of times - were unable to attend the award ceremony in
Hollywood because their visas were delayed.

"It's a huge issue for people in our field," said Mervon Mehta, director of
programming at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. "There is an
international meeting of world-music people in Germany next month and this
will be the number-one topic of discussion."

Mehta said he hadn't been forced to cancel or reschedule any Kimmel
performances, "but for people who present artists... this is not

Scott Southard, president of International Music Network, one of the
country's largest world-music booking agencies, said artists had waited up
to four months to get their visas approved. Before, he said, the procedure
rarely took longer than six weeks. Sometimes the wait was as little as two

"My company books about 700 concert events a year for nonresident performers
and we anticipate having to cancel 25 or 30 performances," Southard said.
"In some cases [such as Valdés'], we've elected not to do tours at all."

According to INS procedure, event sponsors must file a request before a
performer may apply for a visa. The artist is required to provide proof that
he or she is a legitimate performer. The sponsor's request is then reviewed
by regional INS officers, who are also dealing with requests by students and

After the INS approves the request, a "petition approval" is sent to the
embassy or consulate in the artist's home country, where the performer must
apply in person for the visa.

People from Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and other
nations the government has declined to identify undergo much closer
scrutiny - including FBI checks - which can cause months of delay.

Last year, Mehta said, a young French violinist was denied a visa. An Irish
pianist was also refused entry, he said.

After announcing this week that it had cleared its backlog of about 10,000
applications, the State Department said the system had been streamlined to
avert future delays. But that does not apply to citizens from nations on the
department's hot list.

Bookers and producers say they understand the reason for tightened security.
But they are struggling with shifting regulations, and worried about the
effect cancellations could have on an ailing arts economy.

"Of course we want them to protect our borders," said Brian Joyce, who runs
the Philadelphia International Children's Festival. "But the economic impact
on the arts... can be devastating. It has a ripple effect on the audience,
the artists, the theater company, the agents."

Southard said there was a movement in the arts arena to lobby Congress to
cut red tape for known performers.

That's not going to happen, said Stuart Patt, spokesman for the consular
affairs bureau of the State Department.

"The fact is, there are many people in the world who will take advantage of
something like music or performing and use it for their own sinister
purpose," Patt said. "Arts and culture is something that carries with it a
patina of goodness and purity, but it can be misused, and it's our job to
see if somebody is trying to do that."

It's the new reality, he added, and the arts world has to adjust.

Visa Woes Cancel Cucho Valdes Concert, 9/26

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 26, 2002; 7:16 AM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. An Oct. 4 performance by Grammy Award-winning jazz
pianist Chucho Valdes has been canceled because the federal government
won't let the Cuban musician enter the United States.

A new federal law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
prevented Valdes from getting the proper travel visa needed to embark on
his American tour, which was scheduled for a stop at UNC-Chapel Hill next

Valdes was one of 22 Cuban musicians unable to obtain a visa in time to
attend the Latin Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last week. Valdes won for
best pop instrumental album, his first Grammy after decades of work.

State Department officials said last week the performers weren't denied
visas. Instead, they were required by a law enacted in May to clear a
lengthy screening process, one that had not yet been completed.

At UNC, word came down late last week that Valdes, scheduled to kick off
the Carolina Union's 2002-03 performance series, wasn't coming to town.

"It was a huge problem, a scramble," said Don Luse, director of the
Carolina Union. "As a result, we have rescheduled another performer."

The university quickly chose a salsa and jazz act, Ray Barretto and New
World Spirit, to fill the spot. Tickets for the Valdes performance will be
honored at the Barretto appearance.

© 2002 The Associated Press

Bebo Valdés also unable to enter the US, 9/28/02

Bebo Valdés, who last week won a latin grammy in the traditional tropical
category, will turn 84 on october 9. He is one of the great figures of 20th
century cuban music, which is to say, one of the great figures of 20th
century music. He left cuba in 1960, at the height of his career, and
ultimately settled in Sweden. for years he lived quietly, composing and
playing music there; in the 1990s people began to take notice of him
internationally again. His duo with Chucho in the film "Calle 54" is a high
point of the movie. His stint at the Blue Note was eagerly awaited. Bebo
has previously been in the U.S.; he is a known quantity and hardly a threat
to anyone. - Raúl Fernández, California

Foreign Performers and U.S. Gigs: Getting Here Is a Tougher Ticket, 7/22/02

As of two days ago, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the Cuban rumba group who
has appeared many times in the U.S. over the last 10 years, had to cancel
scheduled appearances at the last moment (though their INS petition was
approved weeks ago) at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and in
Puerto Rico and New York. Also having to cancel was Síntesis, the
distinguished Cuban group celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a
just-announced 2002 Latin Grammy nomination, who were to appear at various
dates in August. --Ned Sublette

Los Angeles Times
July 22, 2002

By Mike Boehm, Times Staff Writer

The aftermath of Sept. 11 has created a new kind of MIA: foreign performers
missing their engagements in the United States.

Immigration authorities at home and officers at U.S. embassies abroad have
intensified security checks to keep out potential terrorists; consequently
it can take months longer to issue the clearances foreigners need to get
into the country. Some have been denied entry; others haven't made it
through the maze in time.

Since June, venues from Lincoln Center in New York to California Plaza and
the Conga Room in Los Angeles have felt the impact. Those unable to gain
entry have included a Welsh harpist who was going to perform at a small
festival in Pennsylvania and an English player of the sackbut, a medieval
wind instrument, who failed to make it to UC Berkeley. Eliso Virsaladze and
Alexander Melnikov, two pianists from the former Soviet Union were supposed
to help the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island uphold its tradition of
presenting U.S. debuts of classical musicians. Not this time.

The Lincoln Center Festival has been hit hardest: 10 players in a 28-member
Iranian theater troupe, including one of the lead actors, did not make it
past the U.S. consulate in the United Arab Emirates. Officials there ruled
that the 10 were a risk to remain illegally in America, festival director
Nigel Redden said. That forced Lincoln Center to reconfigure its U.S.
premiere of a cycle of "Ta'ziyeh" plays, traditional musical-theater works
based on Shiite lore.

The Lincoln Center Festival took a second hit when the Paris-based Algerian
singer-guitarist Souad Massi bowed out. Redden said that her partner, a
Moroccan, was held up because of a waiting period imposed after Sept. 11 on
visa applicants from 26 Muslim nations in North Africa, the Middle East and
East Asia; Massi did not want to travel without him.

World music fans in L.A. last month missed what was to have been the
Southern California debut of Toto La Momposina, a Colombian singer-dancer
billed as "The Queen of Cumbia." Her agent, Alison Loerke, described a
bureaucratic nightmare of documents being misplaced and delayed by
immigration authorities; the mess could not be untangled in time for
Momposina's scheduled June 24 concert at the Conga Room.

Cheika Rimitti, an Algerian rai singer, made it to California Plaza for a
free concert on July 13, but she was missing her keyboard player and a guest
singer, Cheb Sahraoui. They were held up by the new 20-day security waiting
period for North Africans and Middle Easterners, said Walter Nick Durkacz,
the New York City festival director who handled visa arrangements for
Rimitti's tour.

Durkacz, who has directed the Central Park Summerstage series for 17 years,
said that delays he encountered this year included having the Immigration
and Naturalization Service bounce back visa applications because he had
signed them in black ink rather than blue, and because he mistakenly had
written a check for $135--$5 more than the required application fee.

The INS has been criticized since Sept. 11 for, among other things, granting
student visas to the two pilots who felled the World Trade Center--six
months after they died carrying out their attack.

"There has been a lot of criticism and they're playing it extremely by the
book because they don't want to make mistakes," Durkacz said. "I can't blame
them. We all do things differently now."

Presenters point to June 1, 2001, as well as Sept. 11 as a milestone on the
road to uncertainty for importers of foreign talent. That's when the INS
began offering to ramrod visa applications through the system in 15
days--for those willing to pay a $1,000 fee. Executives of service
organizations such as Opera America and the American Symphony Orchestra
League say that many of their members can't afford the fee and that visa
approvals that could be obtained in 30 to 60 days early in 2001 now take 100
days or more.

Ron Johnson, a supervisor at the California Service Center in Laguna Niguel,
one of four INS centers nationwide that process visa applications,
acknowledges the average time for unexpedited visa approval has increased
from 75 days early in 2001 to more than 100 days now. The culprit, he said,
is global terrorism, not the "premium processing fee" criticized by arts

It takes five to 10 minutes to run post-Sept. 11 computerized security
checks on each visa applicant, Johnson said--a big reason for the slowdown.

In June, he said, the California Service Center received 9,500 applications
for temporary worker visas--about 500 of them for artists. Their American
presenters must persuade the INS that the performers possess "extraordinary
ability" or are "culturally unique" --a process that for many years has
generated periodic instances of esteemed but not-so-famous performers being
denied entry.

Once the INS has OKd a performer, it is up to officers at U.S. consulates
around the world to decide whether they are trustworthy. Are they apt to
break the law? Is there a risk that they will try to use a temporary visa as
a portal to illegal immigration? Besides the 20-day security waiting period
for those from "countries considered problematic," as the State Department's
consular affairs spokesman, Edward Dickens, put it, all male visa-seekers
ages 16 to 45 must now provide detailed biographical information.

Charlotte Lee, who handles visas for IMG Artists, which has a large roster
of classical musicians, said it recently took her more than five hours to
help a client from China complete the form.

Jan Denton, executive director of the American Arts Alliance, is trying to
educate INS officials about the unique needs of arts presenters--and the
potential damage to their reputations and pocketbooks when advertised
performers fail to appear. She hopes that will lead to more consistent
procedures for evaluating visa applications for artists and more flexible
ways of handling emergencies and preventing no-shows.

"We understand that [immigration authorities] are very, very beleaguered.
Maybe they'll understand what we're up against."

The INS is not about to streamline anything in ways that would compromise
security, said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for the service's Western Region.
"Nobody wants to make a mistake that has awful repercussions."

Arts presenters fear that without relief from visa delays, some foreign
performers may give up on the U.S.--and that some American producers may
balk at booking lesser-known artists, or ones from hot-spot nations, for
fear they won't get through the system.

"The last thing I want is to let that be a decisive factor in what we
program," said Redden, the Lincoln Center Festival director. "But at some
point it may come to that."

New law could affect the visits of Cubans to the US , 4/20/02
El Nuevo Herald

Although some insist that the Border Security law approved this week by the Senate will prevent Cuban political, artistic and cultural delegations from traveling to the United States with the same frequency, there is no consensus on the repercussions the law would have on Cubans wanting to travel to the United States in the quality of tourists or visitors.

The law, approved unanimously by 97 senators and favored by president George W. Bush, prohibits the admission of people originating from countries that promote terrorism -- like Cuba, Iran, Libya, Iraq, Korea of the North, Sudan and Syria -- with the exception of those who come with immigrant visas.

Nevertheless, the law insures that the Justice and Secretaries of State have the right to admit those who they consider do not represent a threat to the country.

The new law will affect all the same, the ‘viejita’ who comes to visit her relatives in the United States as well as representatives of the Cuban government '', said Washington D.C. attorney Jose Pertierra . "Cubans’ visits are going to diminish significantly."

Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen thinks otherwise.

"I do not believe that this project is going to affect the entrance of Cubans into the United States," Ros-Lehtinen said, for the Cuban case has been dealt with differentlty from the one from other countries."

"The application of the rules is going to be as strict and as ample as up until now. The people who have traveled from Cuba have always been put under extensive controls , ''said Ros-Lehtinen.

She indicated that people coming in by boat or rafts will not be affected, because they will be dealt with as sheltered and protected by the Cuban Adjustment Act.

A source who preferred anonymity told el Nuevo Herald that the law will affect significantly the political delegations and groups of artists, athletes, and scientists from the island who travel constantly to the United States.

"This law will provide the mechanisms so that those people no longer will be able to enter," assured the source.

Before, it was already difficult for a Cuban to obtain a visa for entry into the United States as a visitor and, therefore, placing the law into effect "should not to impact" the number of people coming from the island, said Ana Carbonell, office manager for republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Attorney Jose Pertierra

Dear friends:

A very important development last week.

The Border Security Act recently passed by both the Senate and the House would prohibit the issuance of nonimmigrant (including tourist) visas to persons from countries that are "sponsors of international terrorism" as defined by the Department of State. Cuba is on the list. This means that any Cuban citizen applying for a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary visit to the United States is presumptively inadmissible, unless and until the Secretary of State and the Attorney General waive the ground of inadmissibility on a case by case basis.

This will have a detrimentally significant impact on future visits by Cuban citizens to the United States. There will be delays, and there will be denials of applications for nonimmigrant visas by Cuban nationals. Cuban-Americans who want their family members to visit them in the United States can thank their "leaders" in Miami for this ban on tourist visas to Cubans. Everyone ranging from las viejitas who come once a year to artists, writers and policy makers are affected by this law.

However, Cubans wishing to come to this country are still encouraged to swim or row across shark infested waters to Miami Beach where (after coming ashore illegally) they will be greeted with green cards and a parade on Miami's Calle 8 (assuming of course that you survive the journey). The Border Security Act only affects nonimmigrant visas. The Cuban Adjustment Act is not affected by this new legislation.

Go figure,

Jose Pertierra



Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001

(a) IN GENERAL- No nonimmigrant visa under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)) shall be issued to any alien from a country that is a state sponsor of international terrorism unless the Secretary of State determines, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, that such alien does not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States. In making a determination under this subsection, the Secretary of State shall apply standards developed by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, that are applicable to the nationals of such states.


(1) IN GENERAL- In this section, the term `state sponsor of international terrorism' means any country the government of which has been determined by the Secretary of State under any of the laws specified in paragraph (2) to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

(2) LAWS UNDER WHICH DETERMINATIONS WERE MADE- The laws specified in this paragraph are the following:

(A) Section 6(j)(1)(A) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (or successor statute).

(B) Section 40(d) of the Arms Export Control Act.

(C) Section 620A(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

Courtesy of:
The Law Office of Jose Pertierra
1010 Vermont Avenue, NW #620
Washington, DC 20005
202 783 6666

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