After 50 years, Cubans await changes to travel freely

Cuban seems to be near a historic decision to remove at least some of the restrictions on residents to leave the country whenever they want

After controlling the movements of its citizens for five decades, a senior official predicted that there will be a change “radical” and “deep” within weeks. That comment, made by the head of parliament Ricardo Alarcon, raised a plethora of speculation among exiled Cubans on the island and political analysts that the hated exit visa could be forgotten, though the government of Raul Castro continues to limit travel carefully of medical, scientific, military and others in sensitive positions to avoid a brain drain.

Other senior Cuban officials warned that they should not awaken false expectations, leaving the islanders and experts wondering how far they are willing to go the Cuban leadership.

In the past 18 months, Castro and erased bans some private businesses, legalized the sale of real estate and automobiles, and allowed Cubans to hire employees, notions that had been anathema to the Marxist government.

However, lift travel controls could be a longer stride, at least symbolically, with huge economic risks, social and political. Even a half rules, such as reducing the enormous costs of exit visas or terminate tiempoque limits Cubans can live abroad, would be significant.

“It would be a breakthrough,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute, the state of Virginia. “If it puts an end to Cuba travel restrictions of its own citizens, this means that the only restrictions would be those that would force the United States imposes on its citizens.”
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The exit visa costs 150 dollars in a country whose average salary is $ 20 per month.
For the traveler who wants to visit must also pay $ 200 a Cuban consulate abroad. The passes are only leaving for 30 days and the cost of the extension varies by country. In the United States is $ 130 per month. Those who stay abroad for more than 11 months lose their right to reside in Cuba and even by 2011, all his property passed to the State.

The elimination of exit visa would open the door to increased emigration and make it easier for those overseas to avoid losing their right to residence, a burden that fell on waves of exiles from the revolution of 1959. It could also swell the number of Cubans who travel abroad to work, increasing short-term remittances and investments for a new wealthy class in the long term.

But Peters and several analysts said they doubted the new rules cause a change in policy towards Cuba, as the ban on tourism, which have the backing of the powerful group of Cuban-American exiles. “I do not think this will lead to a drastic change, but an accumulation of improvements in human rights could lead to a gradual change,” he added.

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