It opened the French evening news tonight because it is considered to be a very major event : Raul Castro has decided that citizens are now free to travel anywhere in the world without needing a permit (i.e. an exit visa).
Communist Cuba set to end travel restrictions By Carlos Batista
HAVANA, December 22, 2011 (AFP) -- President Raul Castro is Friday expected to announce an end to onerous, unpopular travel restrictions that have been in place for almost 50 years and which keep most Cubans from traveling abroad.
The Roman Catholic Church and regime-friendly musicians like Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes have joined a chorus of Cubans calling for an end to the rules, including one that penalizes "permanent emigrants."
And observers say Castro is widely expected to make the announcement in an address to the National Assembly.
"Cuba normalizing its relations with Cubans who have left the country is going to have to include eliminating all restrictions," analyst Jesus Arboleya said in a recent interview in the Catholic magazine Espacio Laical.
To travel abroad legally, Cubans have to obtain an expensive exit permit as well as a passport -- this in a country where the average monthly salary is about 20 dollars.
The exit permit, which is granted for 30 days, can be renewed 10 times, and can also be denied. Travelers who let their exit permits expire are declared "deserters."
As so-called "permanent emigrants," the assets of these illegal travelers are promptly seized, and they are not welcome to return to home.
Among the changes anticipated in official media: the maximum allowable stay abroad will increase from 11 months to two years, but on a renewable status.
That will spell a de facto end to the "permanent emigrant" status, and should mean that no one's assets will be confiscated any longer, and no one will be less than welcome to return to their homeland.
Cuba will be asking for its emigres to travel home on Cuban passports even if they are nationals of other countries, officials say.
In recent reforms, Raul Castro, 80, has authorized the sale of personal possessions by emigres as a sort of halfway step toward ending confiscation of personal goods.
The president has said reforming travel restrictions aims, among other things, to preserve "human capital created by the Revolution."
It is not just about stemming a "brain drain" -- it is also tremendous business for the only communist regime in the Americas, which is politically and economically isolated, and desperate for cash.
The incomes from medical service staff working abroad and paid to the Cuban government now tops $6 billion a year, making Cuban overseas medical staff -- not sugar exports or tourism -- Cuba's top hard-currency earning industry.
Professionals, especially Cuban-trained doctors, whom the government sends overseas on foreign-currency earning and cooperation contracts, will still have to seek permission for every single trip they make.
If doctors make a little over $20 a month in Cuba, they might make a few hundred a month working in Venezuela, Uganda or Haiti; if they leave for the United States, they might make more than $10,000 a month.
Cuban doctors fled Cuba en masse at the beginning of the revolution led by now retired Cuban icon Fidel Castro, 85. Only 3,000 were left in the country, and the health care system collapsed. Now there are more than 76,000 in a country of 11.2 million.
In 2006, the United States said that any Cuban doctor in a third country could get a US entry visa for themselves and their family. In a reprisal Cuba slapped its toughest travel restrictions on its own doctors.
Back in August, the president said migration reform was in the works, promising better ties for the two million Cubans -- about one in six Cuban nationals -- who live abroad. Although they live in more than 40 countries, 80 percent live in the nearby United States.
Since 2006 Raul Castro's government has ended several unpopular restrictions. Among other things Cubans are now allowed to rent rooms in hotels geared to international tourism, sign cell phone contracts, and buy appliances -- a government energy saving measure.
In September, the government authorized Cubans to buy and sell cars, and this month private homes.
Cubans are extremely keen for the government to eliminate its onerous restrictions on travel abroad.
If Havana makes that move, it could be a stunning wake-up call to the United States, which as part of held-over Cold War policy, still grants any Cuban who reaches US soil legal US residency on request. The United States does not have this policy for nationals of any other country.
Cuba will be asking for its emigres to travel home on Cuban passports even if they are nationals of other countries, officials say. This is kind of a Catch-22 for anyone who left Cuba & stayed gone. If they still own a Cuban passport, it would be expired.
Last Edit: Sept 6, 2019 22:39:05 GMT by bixaorellana: replace highlight
Travel restrictions were one of the worst policies in commie countries. 22 years after the fall of communism in Europe (and the easing of policies in China and Vietnam) the Castros still haven't got it?
It took a whole year for it to happen since the first report, but Cubans are now free to travel wherever they want, starting today.
No more exit permit, no more letter of invitation supplying the name and address of the destination, and no more limitation on the amount of time out of the country.
The main remaining problem is that getting a passport costs 100€ when the average monthly salary is 20€. So most of the travel is going to be done by people with family already outside of the country who can help with finances.
However, I still consider this to be major progress.
The other day there was an article in the NY Times saying that the possibility of the embargo being lifted is even less likely nowadays because stricter laws were put in place by Congress during the Clinton administration.
In line with the changing Cuba theme, I found this article interesting. A very well-traveled friend of mine has been saying for a couple of years that now is the time to go to Cuba, before it turns into a resort "paradise". Sounds as through that's what the writer of the article really wanted. link
Extremely interesting article, which I've read twice. It increases my admiration of what I see as Raul Castro's pragmatic cleverness in moving the country forward by weaning it -- not cold-turkeying it -- off of Fidel worship.
Esteban Lazo's statement, “We believe in a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country”, certainly makes it look as though the leadership knows what is wrong and might even be on the road to fixing it.
I have never forgotten my first trip to Cuba more than 20 years ago. Back then, everybody I encountered was thrilled that things were getting "so much better" because the United States had lifted a few restrictions.
I think the Cubans are among the most patient people in the world, probably because, unlike so many other such countries, they don't feel that their government is corrupt but it trying its hardest to do what it thinks is best for the population, even if many of us don't agree with many of its policies. The new constitution could be an amazing advance in the lives of the citizens.
Well, I'm a day late & a dollar short. I came to this thread to post an article on how Cuba's draft constitution is proceeding, only to see that I completely missed Kerouac's recent post on the same subject. This works out, though, as the Aljazeera article linked above includes more background and shows a vision of a more open and progressive constitution. It's a necessary lead-in to this opinion piece, which is an update showing some pushing forward and some pulling back on crucial issues: www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/opinion/sunday/cubas-next-transformation.html
Yes, most Europeans were a bit disappointed by some of the things that were dropped from the new consitution (such as marriage equality), but at the same time it was a bit surprising that public opinion was so seriously taken into account. This could be considered a good thing, but it would be better to let the general public vote about such things rather than relying exclusively on feedback from the local councils.
Your point about feedback from local councils is well taken, especially since I'd think they'd more likely be made up of older citizens. I thought this part of Anderson's article was telling:
Some of the concerns raised about the draft Constitution clearly reflect the will of older Cubans, many of whom are socially conservative, have spent most of their lives living under Communism and constitute a growing percentage of the population. Other concerns point to the emerging self-confidence and clout of younger Cubans, increasing numbers of whom are involved in the country’s new economy, known as cuentapropismo — or self-employed work, which was authorized and significantly expanded during Raúl Castro’s presidency.
My friend who spends quite a bit of time in Cuba knows people who are involved in rescue of stray cats and dogs (there are many, as in other poor countries) and who have inserted language in the proposed draft constitution about protection of fauna and flora, including fighting neglect and sometimes cruelty against abandoned animals. I suppose this also includes provisions prohibiting cruelty against livestock, though they aren't about to become vegans...
It is true that there are problems with participatory democracy if those who take part tend to be older people with more conservative outlooks on issues such as same-sex marriage.