01/11/13 - Fox News - Cubans Eager to Try New Law Easing Travel Restrictions
Havana - Like many Cubans, 16-year-old Ana Liliam García is excited at
the thought of seeing the world beyond this Communist-run island smaller
than the state of Pennsylvania.
Once an impossibility, today she dreams of meeting several relatives in
Florida - and maybe even Mickey Mouse.
"My cousins and my uncles, they're all in Miami," García said, her eyes
lighting up as she talked about a new law taking effect Monday that will
let most islanders travel abroad without seeking government permission or
paying for costly exit visas. "I would like to see Disneyland in the
United States. I'll be able to travel!"
The overhaul of Cuba's decades-old migratory law, announced three months
ago, eliminates the much-detested exit visa known as the "white card" and
is perhaps the most highly anticipated of a series of reforms initiated
under President Raúl Castro.
Observers predict it will result in only a modest initial increase in
trips by Cubans, who must still get entry visas to travel to most
countries, including the United States. And critics note that the law
includes a "national security" clause that could be used to bar exits by
government opponents, skilled workers and those privy to sensitive
But if applied evenhandedly, the opening would eliminate one of the
biggest human rights criticisms leveled against a country that has long
controlled who can leave, leading opponents to call Cuba an island prison.
"What's important about it is people see this as a symbolic step of some
importance more than a substantive one," said Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst
at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. "It symbolizes the
end of the state intruding in the same way it used to in people's regular
The new law has a number of concrete provisions that will benefit many
The measure greatly simplifies travel by scrapping the exit visa, and
doing away with the requirement that Cubans provide a letter of invitation
from someone in their country of destination.
In the past nearly all exit visa applications were granted, and relatively
quickly, but the costs were prohibitive to many in this country where
wages average $20 a month. Between various application and notarization
fees, it ran to $300 or more a trip, and some Cubans paid an additional
$200 to $300 to people overseas for invitation letters.
Now, islanders need only make a one-time $100 application for a passport,
renewable for $20 every two years.
The new rules also raise from 11 to 24 months the amount of time Cubans
can be gone without losing residency rights. That will make it easier for
people to work or study abroad longer while maintaining ties to the
island, potentially sending money to relatives or even returning with
hard-currency earnings to invest in newly legalized small businesses or
"It will create more of a revolving door instead of an escape hatch," said
Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College in New
York. "They're removing another thorn in the crown of thorns that a lot of
Cubans have to wear."
The migratory law is a PR coup for the Cuban government, which bristles at
outside criticism of its human rights record. It also gives Havana
ammunition in its crusade against the 50-year U.S. embargo, which bars
most Americans from traveling to the island.
"Cuba permits its citizens to come travel here. We don't permit our
citizens to travel there without a regulatory framework that is probably
stricter than what the Cubans are going to adopt," Thale said. "So it does
The law also has implications for U.S. policy, which allows Cubans who
reach American soil to stay and grants them residency rights after just a
year. The Cuban law's 24-month window means there will be a one-year
overlap during which immigrants can establish U.S. residency without
losing their right of return, potentially spawning a new class of
binationals able to move back and forth seamlessly between the two
The stated aim of the United States' Cuban Adjustment Act is to provide
refuge for those fleeing oppression, not easy citizenship for those who
wish to straddle both worlds, and some Cuban-American lawmakers have
already talked of revisiting the policy.
As with many things in Cuba, the effect of the reform will come down to
how it is implemented.
A key article gives authorities the right to deny passports in some cases,
including people facing criminal investigation, those with outstanding
debts or for "reasons of Defense and National Security."
The latter provision has widely been interpreted to mean that people in
strategic professions, such as military officers, athletes or government
figures with access to sensitive information, could be turned down just as
they were in the past.
One litmus test will be how Cuba handles dissidents, who are officially
considered traitors and are routinely denied travel permission.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
CUBA-L FAIR USE NOTICE
This server contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of Cuba's political, economic, human rights, international, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and historical issues, among others. We distribute the materials on the basis of a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material is distributed without profit. The material should be used for information, research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.