Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cuba-Travel: Conforming with the Possibility

Cuba-Travel: Conforming with the Possibility
July 19, 2012
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — I heard an interview with a young musician on a
television program where he said, "We who have had the possibility of
traveling." This made me think about something that's almost taken for
granted here: For Cubans, traveling (like many other things) is only a

Possibility is the ability or the option to doing something possible. It
indicates a circumstance that may occur, but doubt is implied.
Possibility and probability are synonymous to the degree that they both
contain uncertainty.

As we know, Cuban immigration laws have been atypical for half a
century. The requirements that a Cuban who wants to travel must meet are

These include:

1 – receiving a mandatory letter of invitation, the price is between 150
and 200 convertible pesos (CUCs), in the equivalent amount in US dollars
or euros. [100 CUCs is roughly $110 USD]

2 – obtaining a passport, costing about 55 CUCs.

3 – requesting permission to leave (the "carte blanche"), which costs
150 CUC.

4 – paying for a medical checkup (in cases of permanent relocation
outside of the country, especially in the US), which costs around 400 CUCs.

5 – paying the departure tax or "pase a bordo" (which must be paid at
the airport) 25 CUCs.

These are only the requirements of the Office of Immigration (Oficina de
Inmigracion y Extranjeria); which are added to other requirements and
other costs (such as certifications of birth, marriage, divorce,
criminal background checks, military discharge, documents from the
Office of Housing, etc.), with each case according to the proposed type
of travel, whether temporary or permanent.

Usually the processing time of the bureaucratic paperwork takes longer
than it should, forcing Cubans who are eager to travel to come up with
certain monetary "gifts" for the employees of these offices in order to
expedite the processing. The final approval, whether this is to visit
relatives or tourism, is subject to the discretion of the immigration
authorities – meaning that their response is not always positive.

The government claims to be working on the relaxation of the current
immigration policy that prevents citizens from freely leaving the
island. However, nothing concrete has been proposed with respect to
this, despite this being one of the reforms most wanted by the population.

One Cuban parliament member, Deputy Luis Morlote, explained: "Before
issuing any proposal, the National Assembly must first analyze the
impact, conditions and context of changes in the current immigration
model that has been in place for the past fifty years (…) The proposal
is being analyzed while taking into consideration the complexity of the
issue, since we're not talking about just any country."

This he followed up with the issue of the US's Cuban Adjustment Act,
which allows Cubans to obtain residency if they set foot on American
soil. He also spoke about the impact of the brain drain on the island
and finished off by saying that Cubans are leaving mainly for economic
reasons and not political ones. Yet, despite his pretenses, he didn't
rule out a mass exodus.

They are taking their time to change their laws because mass exodus is a
distinct possibility, as has been and remains to this day the right of
all Cubans to travel, for whatever reason or wherever they might go.

Everything is a set of possibilities. That Cuba changes should be a
fact, suffice to be satisfied with the possibility.

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