Ivan Garcia, 2 November 2017 — Twice a week, Mayté, a bank employee, usually talks with and sees her daughter through an internet app that she uses from a park in western Havana. The travel and immigration rules that the Cuba authorities will begin to apply as of 1 January 2018, still won’t allow professionals like Mayté’s daughter, who abandoned her posting in a foreign countries, to visit Cuba.
“The new measures don’t repeal the rules that prevent doctors and professionals who abandon their missions abroad to return before eight years have passed. Right now, everything is the same. They [the regime] have an urgent need to find money, so they are implementing these new travel and immigration reforms,” says Mayté, after talking with her daughter in Miami through the IMO app.
An immigration official, who requested anonymity, said that “there will be gradual changes in travel and immigration regulations, both for Cubans living in the country, and Cubans living abroad.”
Martí News wanted to know if future reforms would cancel the prohibition that prevents professionals, categorized as deserters, from traveling to Cuba before they have been away eight years, and when the extensive blacklist prohibiting opponents of the regime living abroad from visiting their homeland would be eliminated.
“The policy that after two years certain rights are lost will change in the short term,” says the official, referring to the current policy that requires Cubans who remain out of the country for more than 24 months to get special permission to return.
“Also the prohibition of professionals who defected from different missions,” he adds, “and a provision that allows doctors who once decided to leave, to return to the country is in force. But the issue of belligerent Cubans who seek to change our political system is different. That remains a matter of national security. Although for humanitarian situations they have authorized their entry into the country. The State is interested in maintaining a fluid relationship with its emigrants. And all possible openings will be made in that sense,” the official explained.
“Then in the near future will Cuban emigrants be able to hold public jobs?” I ask him.
“Right now I don’t know. But I repeat, the government wants better relations with the emigrants, especially with anyone who is non-confrontational,” he responds.
Eduardo, an economist, says that the new measures “are aimed at capturing as much fresh currency as possible. In the middle of the current economic recession, which has all the signs of becoming a deep crisis due to the 40 percent decrease in oil imports from Venezuela, and with Russia and China apparently unwilling to get involved in the unproductive local economy, as happened in past decades, there is no doubt that the government needs to open new ways to raise more dollars and euros. Family remittances, retail trade in convertible pesos and tourism for Cubans settled in other countries, is a business that moves millions. With these travel measures, and others that could come, such as facilitating the creation of small and medium businesses run by Cubans living abroad, the economic situation could take a favorable turn. As long as they do it in an impartial, independent and reliable legal framework.”
Carlos, a sociologist, doubts that these travel and immigration regulations are the first of a later set of economic reforms focused on private entrepreneurs or stimulating future business with Cuban emigrés.
“I don’t believe it. Those provisions are to improve the flow of liquidity in the state coffers. Until proven otherwise, the regime has always watched with concern the authorization of busineses by Cubans who, among other reasons, left because they disagreed with the socialist system. The current Investment Law does not prohibit Cubans living in other nations from doing business in Cuba, but in practice the state does not open the door for them. In times of uncertainty, with a worsening economic crisis and the backtracking in relations with the United States, the rapprochement with the exile would help to move the country forward. But there is a caste of conservatives within the government who do not approve of this approach. Look at the handbrake they put on people working for themselves. The objective of these travel and immigration reforms is purely financial,” the sociologist explains.
Luisa, the mother of a Havana baseball player who plays in the minor leagues in the United States, believes that “the government should repeal all the laws that prevent Cuban players, doctors and other professionals who stayed during a mission or sporting event from traveling back to Cuba. Bad, good or regular, they are Cuban and they have families here. If they could come freely, and not wait for eight years to pass, if they could open businesses and in the case of the players, compete for the national team, that would contribute to maintaining better relations with an emigration has been vilified. They have branded those who left as scum, traitors, worms.”
Yasmany, the father of two children living in Miami, says that with the recently announced measures “the government is not doing any favors to the Cuban emigrants. It is a right that is contemplated in international laws. If they approve it now, it’s simply because they need money.”
Gloria, a lawyer, states that “it is a legal aberration that Cubans have to get a special stamp on their passport in order to travel to their own country. All that is absurd. The convenient thing would be that they can come and go without legal obstacles on the part of the state. Also that they can establish businesses in their homeland, occupy political positions or live one season abroad and another on the island. In recent years, the government has made progress in the area of travel and immigration, but it is opening spaces little by little.”
Many people consulted agree that, in the same way that Havana is the capital of all Cubans, Cuba is the home of all Cubans, wherever they live and however they think. And no one should have the right to regulate their freedom to travel or to settle in their native city when they can or want to.
But the regime has another point of view. That is why it governs the island as if it were its property.
Translated by Jim