News and Facts about Cuba

New travel law just another survival tactic for Castro

Posted on Tuesday, 10.16.12

In My Opinion

New law just another survival tactic for Castro

By Fabiola Santiago

[email protected]

Once again, the Cuban government is vying to unleash another mass exodus

on the United States.

With the announcement Tuesday in the official newspaper Granma of the

elimination of the government-issued exit visa required for Cubans to

travel abroad, the Castro dictatorship is following a familiar script.

Providing an escape route to the growing opposition and the discontented

has been a superb survival strategy for more than five decades of

totalitarian rule.

In 1980, announced the opening of the port of Mariel to the

disaffected who had stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana desperate to

leave the island, and he sent the message to exiles in Miami that they

could pick up relatives as well. Some 125,000 Cubans — among them

criminals and mental patients Castro forced on the boats — arrived in

South Florida in five months.

In the summer of 1994, Castro announced that authorities wouldn't stand

in the way of Cubans seeking to leave and looked the other way as people

built homemade rafts. Some 35,000 sailed across the Florida Straits, and

after months-long stays in tent-city camps set up by the Clinton

administration in Guantanamo, they were processed and flown here.

And now comes Raúl Castro, re-inventing his brother's sure-footed

strategy to send the enemy into exile — and relieve the pressure on the

government to undertake meaningful reforms — by making it easier for the

disenchanted masses to leave while retaining control of who travels.

While this may seem a blessing to a people without hope, when Cuba talks

"immigration reform" and "new travel measures," only one thing is

certain: There will be major — and unfavorable — implications for the

United States, particularly for South Florida.

Clues to Cuba's intentions are in the details of the new rules.

They exempt medical professionals, scientists, and other desirable

skilled would-be emigrants, and the military. They sweeten the offer to

the Revolution-bred masses by assuring them that they would be welcomed

back to Cuba and could retain their resident benefits as long as they

return every two years.

In other words, travel to the mythical Miami, city with streets paved in

exile gold; become a resident after a year under the Cuban Adjustment

Act and be eligible for U.S. benefits; send thousands of dollars and

goods to Cuba; come vacation in Varadero — and even collect a few pesos

(those $20-a-month Cuban pensions), rent or sell your home and keep your

old Lada.

"This is a way to get rid of Cuba's population because they cannot meet

the economic needs of the people," says Andy S. Gomez, senior fellow at

the of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American

Studies. "They do it with bad intentions. They know that the young

people of Cuba are looking for any opportunity to leave the country…. As

a young woman told me in Santiago de Cuba, 'Anywhere but here.'"

It's also no that the new travel rules are timed to go into

effect on Jan. 13, days from the U.S. presidential inauguration.

No matter who wins the election, Cuban officials will be able to peddle

their brand of truth to the Cuban people — particularly the disenchanted

youth — that it's not their government prohibiting travel, but the

imperialist monster to the North. Another ploy to force their way into

the American agenda.

If the Cuban government had anything but its prolonged survival in mind,

that loathed exit-visa requirement dubbed by Cubans "the white card"

would never have existed.

Cubans like Yoani Sánchez would not have to ask

for permission to attend a professional conference or to accept a prize

even as the servile privileged, like Raúl Castro's daughter Mariela

travel as they desire. They would have been free to travel and return to

their homeland, no big deal.

But travel control has always been used as a weapon of submission:

Support the government or claim you're apolitical and get permission to


The new measures also control, but via passports.

"Looks like the Cuban government reserves the right to decide who leaves

the country with the requirement that they have to update passports,"

tweeted Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the late leader

Oswaldo Payá. She has not been allowed to travel to the Vatican to meet

with the Pope, despite his official invitation.

"Although I have a passport, it wouldn't do me any good with the new

law," Sánchez also tweeted. "I would have to ask for another

passport, subject to denial."

They know their government well.

Language in the new travel rules note exemptions for "defense and

national security," meaning that dissidents remain as they are — without

any rights.

Because anything short of real change is only another tactic for a

regime gasping for fresh air — and survival dollars from the United States.

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