Friday, April 18, 2008

A little big change?

Much has been written in the international media about the "raft of reforms” introduced by Raul Castro since taking over from his ailing and seemingly half-demented older brother.

It is true that most of these changes seem to have been welcomed by Cubans on the island but when all is said and done, the reforms have been, well, pretty limited. Cosmetic.

After all, why shouldn’t ordinary Cubans have the right to buy DVDs or to purchase computers without needing written permission from the regime? Or to have mobile phone connections. Or to be allowed to stay in luxury hotels in their own country?

But there is plenty of speculation today that Castro II is about to introduce a potentially much more far-reaching reform: lifting some of the restrictions placed on Cubans who can afford to travel overseas.

According to this report in the normally well-informed Spanish daily El Pais, the regime is about to announce the abolition of the so-called tarjeta blanca, the exit permit Cubans need before they can even start the process of buying a valid ticket.

This exit permit costs the equivalent of about USD120.00 – or about eight times the average monthly wage - so it's a nice little revenue-earner for those money-hungry Castro brothers.

But apart from making money, the permit also allows the regime to restrict who is allowed out of the country, when and for how long.

And of course, this being Cuba, there is never, ever any guarantee that your application for the tarjeta blanca will be accepted, let alone be accepted within a reasonable amount of time. In some cases, it can take several months to get a response from the Communist bureaucracy – and often it is in the negative.

So, here’s hoping the media reports are right and the hated exit permit will be history sooner rather than later.

The bad news is that there will still be restrictions, according to El Pais. For instance, doctors won’t be allowed out. Nor recent university graduates or anyone vaguely connected to the military or the political police.

Stay tuned.


Blogger theCardinal said...

Let's say the reports are true. Let's say that the regime allows liberal rules for the tarjeta blanca. What does the US do then? Then we would be the ones restricting Cubans from coming here. What is to stop anyone even granted a tourist visa from declaring "dry-foot" privileges? It'll be interesting to see our reaction if these reports are true. This could open up a flood of freedom flights to the US and force us to reconsider our current policy.

8:12 pm  

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