By Damien Cave
The New York Times
MEXICO CITY — In a country of limits, it is the restriction that many Cubans hate the most: the exit visa that the government requires for travel abroad and can be onerous to get, trapping many Cubans looking to leave even for just a few days.
But now that bureaucratic barrier is on its way out. The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it would terminate the exit visa requirement as of Jan. 13, letting many Cubans depart for vacations, or forever, with only a passport and a visa from the country where they plan to go.
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.
Cubans can be denied the right to leave for reasons of “defense and national security,” according to the new law, suggesting that dissidents will face the same restrictions as always.
Cuba’s doctors, scientists, military officers and other professionals, who have also long faced tight restrictions on travel, may be ineligible as well because the new policy includes a major caveat allowing the government to limit departures to “preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful.”
Comments by RLG’s Nick Labadie:
I’ve thought for a while that we will see Cuba change dramatically in our lifetime sooner than later and that it will be a new market that has real significance to U.S. business interests. Of course, we’ll see major players take advantage of the big ticket items such as natural resources, tourism, etc., but the largest country in one of the most beautiful parts of the planet that has been effectively cut off from the world for 40+ years will present innumerable opportunities for the creative and motivated to seize opportunities that haven’t been available since we more or less stopped conquering new lands.
I can only hope that the transition will be smooth, peaceful and swift, but have no doubts that it will be a momentous shift in the social, political, and economic landscape of Latin America and the U.S. If it can avoid the sad narratives of nearby countries such as Haiti and The Dominican Republic, new markets totaling 11 million people eager to embrace everything they have been denied will surely find no shortage of ways to do so. Should Cuba go so far as to allow foreigners to own land, there will be some portion of just under 43,000 square miles of it available to the early adopters of the new Cuban playground.
A nation being re-born and coming of age in the western hemisphere in today’s age of technology and global interconnectedness will be a fascinating and historic thing to observe, if not a wild adventure to take part in. I know I’m looking forward to it.