Travel and Emigration Reform? / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

The recently announced and often proposed travel/emigration reform act finally appeared in the Official Gazette and, as you might guess, simply amounts to a reshuffling of the same restrictions along with some new ones. Its additional procedures are designed to “make changes so that everything stays the same” and to keep extracting hard currency from Cubans both inside and outside the country.

The “white card,” or exit permit, has been eliminated and its restrictions will now be applied to the passport, which will only be issued to those citizens who fulfill a long list of requirements or whom the state deems worthy. Its price will increase from 55 CUC to 100 CUC. It will extend to twenty-four months the time one can remain outside the country without being considered an emigrant. Cubans living in other countries and with other nationalities are still required to have a Cuban passport to visit Cuba, and it does not recognize dual citizenship, as is common in other democratic countries in the world. It also introduces a 150 CUC emigration processing fee for people living overseas and 100 CUC fee for those who decide to reside in Cuba.

As you might imagine, although there are still no guidelines or regulations regarding the practical application of the law, it is a bit like the saying, “You can flip the omelet over, but it’s the same on the other side.” Or to put it another way, “It’s the same dog but with a different collar.” It is now understandable why they needed so much time to craft this travel/emigration straitjacket.

Those who expected real change, and serious travel/emigration reform as a result, were left still wishing, and also, with the frustration of feeling tricked. It seems that the majority of Cubans still do not understand it is only possible to expect more of the same from the current authorities and never anything really new or different. Dogmatism, schematicism, and conservatism seem to be their guidelines and they never deviate from them: they have yielded powerful results for half a century, and they will not finally change now. The approved emigration reform constitutes a mockery of the wishes of the citizens, who every day demand real changes. May it serve as a lesson to so many naive ones!

October 20 2012