Thursday, October 18, 2012

Now it's our turn

The BBC and the Times are both posting stories this week about a dramatic development in Cuba. The country is moving away from its status as a closed society and dropped the requirement for exit visas for Cubans wishing to move away or simply to travel abroad.

 From the BBC:

  Cuba has announced it is removing the need for its citizens to obtain exit permits before travelling abroad. State media said the move, to come into effect on 14 January next year, would "update" migration laws to reflect current and future circumstances. 

 Cubans currently have to go through a lengthy and expensive process to obtain a permit and dissidents are often denied one, correspondents say. 

 The move is the latest in a series of reforms under President Raul Castro. Cubans who have permanent residency on the island will also be allowed to stay abroad for up to 24 months, instead of the current 11, without having to return to renew paperwork.

 And from the Times:

  The new policy — promised by President Raúl Castro last year, and finally announced in the Communist Party newspaper — represents the latest significant step by the Cuban government to answer demands for change from Cubans, while also maintaining a significant measure of control. 

 . . . 

 But the new law gives Cubans leeway to stay abroad longer, letting them remain outside the country for two years before losing their rights to property, citizenship and benefits like health care, an increase from 11 months under the current policy. Analysts say the government is encouraging more Cubans to travel so that they can go earn money elsewhere and return, injecting capital into the island’s moribund economy. Whether that creates a temporary — or permanent — mass exodus, Cubans and experts say, will be determined by how many people have the means and passports to leave, and which countries welcome them.

 Obviously this isn't everything. For instance, the law will retain restrictions on emigration for people, such as doctors and other professionals, who are considered too valuable to the population to be allowed to leave.

Nevertheless, this is a move in the direction of greater freedom and fewer legal restrictions.  Although it has been obvious for years that our half-century long state of economic warfare against Cuba has utterly failed to produce positive change, this change in Cuban law creates a political opportunity for the administration to make a reciprocal move in Cuba's direction. If you assume that the rational and humane choice, a complete end to the embargo, is not a possibility, a related move, such as eliminating travel restrictions, could and should be initiated as soon as possible.

 How about an announcement on November 13? It's our turn.

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