La Jornada, Mexico
Cuba: Crossroads for Washington
By Ángel Guerra Cabrera
Translated By Kate Wheeler
17 January 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
Mexico - La Jornada - Original Article (Spanish)
The application of new Cuban immigration provisions shatters old stereotypes created by the fierce American propaganda campaign against the revolution. Washington cannot continue to sell the ridiculous image of a prison island that the media and dominant cultural vectors have led people of good will to believe.
The United States is exposed as the only country in the Americas that prevents its citizens from traveling to Cuba, even though this demeaning fact does not make them owners of Cuba, as Cuban blogger Iroel Sanchez rightly noted (http://lapupilainsomne.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/2011-el-ano-de-la-indignacion/). The cathedrals of freedom of the press hide the fact that U.S. citizens are prohibited from traveling to Cuba. Those who do so without authorization from Washington (where only a few cases are approved and there are many restrictions) risk being fined, along with other sanctions.
From now on, Cubans can travel anywhere in the world without having to perform the previous cumbersome actions and will be able to become legal residents of other countries — including the United States — without losing their legal residence in Cuba. The state does reserve, for reasons of national security or public interest, the ability to deny permission to travel to a minority of officials, scientists and elite athletes. However, we are seeing the Cuban state’s willingness to make less use of this prerogative. Even U.S. mercenaries on the island can apply for a passport, and as soon as they receive it, they will be able to travel to the country that gave them a visa to be in Cuba in the first place. We know that money is not missing.
It should be highlighted that the new legal regulations, with all their depth, come from a policy of gradual relaxation of the immigration controls by the Cuban government. According to official figures, between 2000 and August 2012, 99.6 percent of all exit permits were approved for Cuban citizens. In that period, 941,953 people traveled for private reasons, out of which 120,275 did not return — equivalent to 12.8 percent. Of those travelers, 158,068 were university graduates, 10.9 percent of whom defected. The facts clearly show that the majority of Cubans who travel return to Cuba. So illusions of a mass exodus are absurd.
Although I do not have exact data, I know firsthand that many Cubans are returning to the island as a result of the capitalism crisis or have returned due to the new ease with which they can open a small business in their country. I recently spoke in Havana with doctors who had traveled to visit relatives in the U.S. before the updated immigration controls, as they are called in Cuba. Their return to the island is evidence that the spirit (feeling Cuban and not defecting) worked long before being put on paper.
The impact of this change left the Miami mafia dumbstruck. No longer could they utter their normal lines, such as “the Castro dictatorship only works to maintain its power.” The truth is that they do not know how to respond to the situation. For its part, the State Department, through its “voice,” Victoria Nuland, has reacted positively and called for the anti-Cuban media, like El Pais, to admit the obvious even though its bias is its ignoble trademark.
The main problem now is for Washington to decide what to do with the famous Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants work permits, residence and naturalization to all Cubans who legally or illegally enter the United States. The idea was that they were political prisoners, but as they can now legally and easily leave the island, the situation has changed. The vast majority are economic migrants, and Cuba’s political positions are very far from what the rabid contra-revolution in Miami wants people to believe.
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