Margarita Alarcón Perea
The most dramatic and necessary of all the changes brought about during the Presidency of Raul Castro, is finally here. Cubans are allowed to exit the country freely, no longer requiring the devilish “exit visa”.
When one factors in the reasons why this is an all around positive move we find that the aspect that tops the list, contrary to popular belief, is the reality that of all of those Cubans who will be making trips abroad, most of them, will be coming back home.
Cuba was never really a jail as some have spent years and endless amounts of paper and ink claiming. It was an island that under extremely difficult circumstances was trying to survive, and still is. Still, that said, the concept of having to solicit a formal authorization in order to leave the country was something that after decades, began to weaken much of what the country had been striving to achieve: complete social justice. Cubans on the island simply couldn’t comprehend why they were obliged to go and request the government to allow them to exit the country and then return. Herein lies the gist of the issue, Cubans will not only be allowed to exit, they will also be allowed to remain abroad (this time restraint still needs tweaking) for a maximum of 24 months, and they will be allowed to return home. No longer will there be the anguish of having to decide between “here” and “there”.
The issue now will be entry visas from the countries where the Cubans will wish to travel to. Not just the United States. Canada, Spain, Mexico and others will be nations where Cubans will swarm the consulates in Havana requesting the right to enter. And not only will it be Cubans who will need to understand the concept and the aspects that regulate world travel, some bloggers out there will also have to take a crash course as I read in one piece.
“A visa is still needed to enter almost any country Cubans wish to visit. There is a short list of countries that the government will allow its citizens to travel to visa free: Malaysia, Hungary, Russia, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Cristobal and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.“
The author of this blog post either has a problem with the English language and mixed up the subject of the sentence, or seriously needs to learn a bit more about international travel laws before writing. The Cuban government, whether it wants to or not, has NO LEGAL RIGHT to tell another government that Cuban citizens may travel there “visa free”. The above mentioned nations may have established a covenant with Cuba (not that I am aware of) which allows Cubans with a valid passport to travel to their nations visa free, but by no means is that ever a decision made by the Cuban Government.
There is another issue which involves the United States specifically. In the past, Cubans wanting to travel to the US were subject to a series of restrictions one of which, of course, was the exit permit, letter of invitation and other paperwork. Now on the Cuban side, all of this has been limited to a valid passport, an airplane ticket and of course a visa issued from the US enabling the individual to travel and enter the country.
Below, another post, interviewing individuals in Cuba, pretty much sums up the current and future situation:
“I would like to travel and be with my family,” said Maria Eugenia Jimenez, who was seeing off her sister who lives in Miami. “They (the US) turned me down for a visa because I could be a possible immigrant… Now the problem is with the other countries, not with Cuba.”
In the end, the ability to travel abroad and return home will give Cubans the chance to see for themselves what lies across the waters that surround them. They will see for themselves. When they return, they will be able to better understand what is good about the island and what are the aspects within the society and the government that could use valid change. Keep in mind, for 50+ years, the US has been the “forbidden fruit” for most Cubans. They have idolized it through family members living there and friends who left. By and large the years of propaganda stemming from the different programs oriented to disrupt the Cuban revolution have painted the perfect picture of a pristine gold rushing US society where everything is to be had if you have the desire and the will. Even if you step away from the US as an issue and ask any Cuban on the street they will have a completely distorted concept of what life is like outside of their little enclosed island. Now they will have the chance to see for themselves, and it will be a wakeup call to say the least.
If the political, diplomatic, and economic situation between Cuba and the US were to be resolved, many of these same Cubans could establish a back and forth bridge between both countries, where not only Cuba but the US could benefit. Meanwhile you have the US embargo still in place, you also have the Cuban Adjustment Act and you have the travel restrictions against normal everyday US citizens, regarding travel to Cuba. All of this will have to change sooner rather than later. The grass is always greener where you water it; both sides of the fence need a serious sprinkler and Cuba just opened the spout.