Emigration is Good Business for the Cuban Government / Iván García

It’s daylight robbery. Every time a Cuban residing abroad decides to visit their home country, the must pay a crude ‘revolutionary tax’ to the Castro brothers government.

Let’s get out the calculator. In 2012 nearly 400,000 Cuban emigrants visited the island. Before unpacking the plasma TVs, computers, video games and smartphones for their relatives, all of them had to pay, in cash at the Castro’s Consulates abroad, 240 dollars for a ‘carta de invitacion‘ and 80 dollars for a months stay in the land where they were born.

Nostalgia and the desire to meet the grandchildren, or simply to drink a glass of run with no shirt on at their mother’s house with old friends, has a price to those who have emigrated.

No one understands that a Cuban can be a foreigner in their own country. There is a huge legal aberration in the Constitution of the Republic: one cannot have dual citizenship. However, when visiting their country, emigrants must do it with a Cuban passport. These absurd immigration laws don’t stop there. If they are unfortunate enough to be arrested and sent to one of the hard prisons, they must pay for their legal representation in hard cash. They find themselves in a no man’s land.

For the Cubans who’ve decided to leave, the abusive and excessive costs are better to have done with. Let’s go over our expenses. 55 pesos (CUC)for a passport, 400 for a basic medical. 200 to validate a bachelor’s degree. 150 for an exit permit. Apart from these 805 CUC or ‘small change’ – equivalent to three years of an engineer’s salary – the government is getting other sources of pocket money from the provision of airport services and commission on plane tickets.

The industry of milking immigrants and potential emigrants doesn’t stop there. If you choose a 3 month ‘carta de invitacion‘ or an exterior work permit you must also go past the till.

Let’s put some numbers in. Due to a lack of government figures on the numbers of Cubans travelling abroad, let us suppose that 100,000 Cubans leave the island temporarily every year. If we multiply that by 805, we can see that the regime pockets 80 million pesos just from these journeys.

To the grand business that immigration turns into for the creole mandarins, add to it the billions coming from family remittances, and the hundreds or thousands of millions that they obtain through the concept of travel agencies and shippers rooted in Florida.

To put the cherry on top, the succulent ‘hustling’ adds to the hundreds of millions which Cuban emigrants spend on ‘shoppings’, buying food, electrical appliances and other bits and bobs for their relatives.

This industry, plonked on top of immigration, is one of the few profitable Castro brother enterprises. Now, with the alleged migration reform it remains to be seen is whether the prices for those who decide to leave permanently or travel abroad temporarily will fall.

It’s already known that for “basic security measures” they don’t allow Yoani Sánchez to leave. And the journalists Carlos Alberto Montaner and Raúl Rivero will have to keep on hoping that God will take them to foreign lands.

While this persists, no migratory reform will be achieved. You can’t applaud shameful concessions that are basic rights.

Cuba belongs to all Cubans, not just those of an olive green caste.

Iván García

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January 18 2012