Washington Closes The Escape Valve / 14ymedio
14ymedio, Havana, 13 January 2017 — Matilde sold her home just two weeks
ago to pay for the immigration route to the United States. Thursday, the
hope of achieving her dreams burst when president Barack Obama put an
end to the wet foot/dry foot policy that granted legal residency to
Cubans who reached the United States.
The news dropped like a bombshell on the island. "My family is
desperate, having put all their hopes in this journey," the retired
woman told 14ymedio. With a son living in New Jersey, the woman planned
to travel at the end of this month to Mexico and cross the border "to
the land of freedom."
Since the death of former president Fidel Castro, no other event has so
shaken the Cuban reality. The announcement this Thursday affected many
who normally live their lives outside politics and official issues. "I
feel as if someone had snatched away my lifejacket in the middle of the
sea," said Matilde.
Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, of the Cuban Legal Association, believes that
the decision is "something that belongs to the sovereignty of a
State." In 1995, during the Bill Clinton administration, the policy was
approved that today "is considered opportune to change," but "the
repercussions of that in other countries is a problem of other governments."
The attorney maintains that what happened transcends the issue of
migration and touches the pillars of the ideological propaganda of the
Plaza of the Revolution. "It has been said that these facilities
provided by the US government encouraged emigration and now that part of
the argument is over." For Vallín the decision could "increase
discontent among citizens."
The end of this immigration policy comes at a bad time for the
government of Raúl Castro. Last year closed with a stagnant economy that
experienced a fall of 0.9% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For
those most affected by hardship and the high cost of living, the
possibility of emigration to the United States was a source of permanent
However, the ruling party has welcomed a new era. Josefina Vidal, the
director general for the United States in Cuba's Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, told the national media that with this suspension, "the
migration crisis between Cuba and the United States is eliminated." The
end of the wet foot/dry foot policy has been a old demand of the
government of the island, which has also pressed to end the Parole
program for Cuban health professionals, a measure that was also
suspended this Thursday.
"With these measures, Cubans who believed they could find prosperity and
wellbeing in the United States will have to find another solution,"
reflects opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban
Patriotic Union (Unpacu).
In a telephone conversation with this newspaper from eastern Cuba,
Ferrer says now begins a stage of "thinking more about how to obtain
freedom, prosperity, opportunities and rights here in our own land." The
scenario that opens "will make us much more responsible and aware that
we must take the reins of our destiny as a people and as a nation here
In front of the University of Havana, Ramon, 48, reflects on the
possible repercussions of what happened. "Every time the popular
disagreement reached a high point, the government managed to calm it by
opening up emigration," he says. "Now we are all unable to get out of
this pressure cooker that is always getting hotter."
Activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) movement,
considers it an "excellent" decision. "The refugee status for political
reasons is something too serious, too honorable for it to continue to
function as it has so far," he reflects. "Any measure that makes Cubans
take more responsibility for their nation instead of fleeing it is
something that should be supported."
For opposition member Manuel Cuesta, a member of the Democratic Action
Roundtable (MUAD), the elimination of this policy "should have been
taken long ago to avoid the type of risky emigration that has resulted
in the loss of the lives of young people, children and whole families."
He acknowledges, however, that the decision is "controversial because
those who were preparing their raft to leave early this morning have
just been dissuaded in a way that cannot be appealed." It is likely that
"Trump is applauding the measure," he said.
Source: Washington Closes The Escape Valve / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba