[HCCN] Cuba drops most restrictions on foreign travel

Judy_Robbins Judy at RobbinsAndRobbins.com
Tue Oct 23 20:47:05 EDT 2012

Thanks to Tom Whitney, of Norway, Maine, for this analysis of Cuba's new policies on foreign travel, published today in People's World.

Cuba drops most restrictions on foreign travel
by: W. T. Whitney Jr.
October 23 2012

On October 16, the Cuban government announced new policies on foreign travel
from Cuba to take effect January 14, 2013.

Beginning then, Cubans may leave the island for any purpose on presentation of a
valid passport and an entry visa, if required. Prospective travelers won't need
to secure exit visas or letters of invitations from foreign hosts. They'll save
the $150 cost of the former and a $200 levy for processing the latter.

Permission to stay abroad is extended from 11 months to 24 months, when Cubans
resident overseas must apply at a consulate for extended permission. Until now,
Cubans overstaying their allowed time have risked losing citizenship and rights
to social security, health care, and return. An old law enforcing confiscation
of ex-citizens' property is repealed.

Cubans living abroad will no longer need re-entry permits for return visits to
Cuba. (In the past, the permits had targeted returning counter-revolutionaries.)
Cubans permanently resident elsewhere may freely return for up to 180 days.
Non-citizen Cuban residents may visit for three months, up from one month.
Provisions are made for children's travel and for workers to retain their jobs
after foreign travel.

Some observers attribute impetus for the changes to hopes some workers recently
laid off from state employment will find work overseas and send remittances
home. More importantly, the government was responding to longstanding complaints
from Cubans both at home and abroad.

Crucially, the stage is now set for upending one big part of the U.S. regimen of
anti-Cuban hostility: the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Editorializing on the reforms, Cuba's Granma newspaper criticized "U.S. policy
which encourages illegal emigration on the one hand and, on the other, creates
obstacles for those who wish to emigrate in a legal, well-ordered and safe
manner." The purpose, they conclude, is to "foment internal destabilization."

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), a U.S. federal law enacted in 1966, gains
unaccustomed visibility because of this change in Cuba's foreign travel rules.
That 1966 law insured that undocumented Cubans arriving in the United States
would obtain social services and, a year later, authorization for permanent
residence. Cubans were thus enticed into making perilous boat trips from Cuba,
across the Florida Straits to Key West.

During the 1980's the U.S. government forced many Cubans into the CAA mechanism
by regularly failing to meet entry visa totals stipulated in old agreements.
Refugees portrayed as having escaped communist oppression served propaganda

The CAA made for problems, however. In 1980 around 125,000 Cubans came by small
boats from Mariel in Cuba to Florida. Local authorities at once had to provide
for needy migrants competing with distressed locals for job opportunities and
social services. To handle massed refugees more efficiently, U. S. authorities
in 1994 diverted 40,000 Cuban rafters to U.S. military bases in Guantanamo and
Panama and from there to the United States.

Subsequently the U.S. government, perhaps taken aback, began reliably to issue
the 20,000 entry visas required by new migratory agreements. The U.S. Coast
guard started to return migrants picked up at sea to Cuba.

In fact, opines Cuba analyst Walter Lippmann, "Washington set a trap for itself
with the Cuban Adjustment Act." That's because with easier exit from Cuba, many
Cubans can go to Canada or Mexico and then step across the U.S. border, or enter
the United States by way of Europe, taking advantage of the United States not
requiring entrance visas for European visitors. And significantly: the CAA
depended on now non-existent Cuban exit restrictions for part of its propaganda

Some restrictions do continue. Foreign media have highlighted those applying to
workers in economically, militarily, and strategically important sectors. Health
workers, scientists, and high-profile athletes are affected. Foreign travel is
also restricted for criminal defendants, Cubans ready for the military draft,
and others subject to national security considerations.

Cuban planners have long tried to deal with the same disappointment other poor
countries face in providing university training for young people only to see
industrialized nations benefitting from their skills. The much resented exit
restrictions represented Cuba's response to this "brain drain."

Over 50 years ago, the newly victorious Cuban revolutionaries found that by 1961
half of Cuba's 6000 physicians had departed, mostly to the United States. Cuba
subsequently prepared 80,000 of its own physicians thus becoming vulnerable to
cruelly aggressive hostility. The United States, at least 20 percent of whose
practicing physicians were schooled in poor countries, mounted its "Cuban
Medical Professional Parole Program" in 2006. Cuban doctors serving on overseas
missions are offered inducements to abandon Cuba for the United States.

Interviewed on October 19, Washington lawyer and Cuban native Jose Pertierra
observed, "Perhaps President Obama sees the irony that Cuba recognizes the right
of Cubans to visit the United States, but that Washington keeps on violating the
right of U.S. citizens to visit Havana." Pertierra called for an end to U.S.
travel restrictions, repeal of the CAA, and no more "measures designed to seduce
Cuban doctors."

Restiamo Umani ~ Vittorio Arrigoni

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