This is a very significant move that delivers on a commitment made in 2011. It is a clear improvement in Cuba's human rights practices.
It is also popular, judging from conversations in Cienfuegos yesterday. One man exulted that it removed a barrier that stops him from visiting his brother and other family abroad. Another would not part with his newspaper because the news had him “so emotional.” Newspapers were hard to come by. The text of the law, available in post offices, was gone by mid-morning. A clergyman said it was “the most awaited change” among all the lifted prohibitions – computers, DVDs, hotel stays, cell phones, car sales, residential real estate sales. A man running errands with his daughter described the change simply: “This is a freedom that has been suppressed for many years, but no longer. Things are changing, more and more.”
The impact will not be massive and immediate because no receiving country is about to grant massive numbers of visas to Cubans
Finally, the move is a calculated risk on the part of the government, which opted to grant this freedom even as it copes with emigration of 30,000-40,000 per year that includes many educated professionals. The alternative would have been to wait years for an improvement in salaries and general economic conditions that would in turn reduce the incentive to emigrate. Today’s bet seems to be that Cuba will be stronger with a more normal and modern immigration policy – and that many Cubans, given the freedom to come and go, want to visit family and see the world and then return home.