HAVANA (AP) — The U.S. State Department said says it is eliminating a coveted five-year tourist visa for Cubans, dealing a heavy blow to entrepreneurs and Cuban members of divided families, who used the visas to see relatives in the U.S. and buy precious supplies for their businesses on the island.

The elimination of the visa cuts a vital link between the U.S. and Cuba by forcing Cubans to make a costly and complicated trip to a third country like Mexico or Panama every time they want to visit the U.S. That's because the U.S. withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff from Havana in September 2017.

Until now, Cubans who applied for a visa in a third country would receive a visa eliminating the need to apply again for another five years.

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