Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Long-awaited migration reform

Cuban media announced yesterday a government decision to end the requirement that citizens who wish to travel abroad obtain a government exit permit called the tarjeta blanca.  Also eliminated was the requirement to obtain a letter of invitation from a person or institution overseas, and the considerable expense associated with both.  There are exceptions for health care professionals, security personnel, and others.  Both changes take effect January 14.

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.


Anonymous said...

It looks all good on the cards, but in the case of professionals things are actually worse.

Go and read the official announcement here. In particular, notice article 23, section f:

"Artículo 23: Los ciudadanos cubanos residentes
en el territorio nacional no pueden obtener pasaporte
corriente mientras se encuentren comprendidos en
alguno de los supuestos siguientes:
f) Carecer de la autorización establecida, en virtud de
las normas dirigidas a preservar la fuerza de trabajo
calificada para el desarrollo económico, social y
científico-técnico del país, así como para la seguridad y protección de la información oficial.

What's your opinion?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

This is not the migration reform that would give Cubans the long awaited right to move freely in and out of their country specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Cuba is a signatory.

Nor should we expect it be. Such a reform is not viable in an inefficient totalitarian regime with over 50 years of rationing, a lack of labor incentives and a total incapacity to solve people's needs.

If, under such a government, freedom of movement were allowed, people would vote with their feet, a mass exodus would occur and the country would be depopulated in a very short period of time.

As the saying goes, "The last Cuban to leave would have to turn of the lights in the Morro Castle lighthouse!"

There would be danger as well for the survival of the totalitarian regime if it were to allow all Cubans living abroad to enter and leave the country and to live there as long as they pleased.

There are many Cubans abroad who, consider themselves political exiles and are utterly opposed to the rotalitarian government.

If they were allowed to return it would make it possible for them to convince many people of the island of the necessity to overturn the existing regime and promote social unrest.

All existing governments and ruling classes attempt to hold on to power and take measures to promote that end. None of them are masochistic or willing to commit political suicide.

The Cuban totalitarian regime to survive needs to control the movement of its citizens both in and out of the country.

However it must find ways to do this in an intelligent way without creating unnecesary economic and political difficulties.

The recent migration reform is a way to try to simultaneously try to accomplish these conflicting objectives.


Anonymous said...

To accomplish this, on one hand the totalitarian government promotes a more ample movement of Cubans both in and out of the country to provide the government and the privileged minority running it more freely convertible currency.

If there are more Cubans living abroad and if they can be stimulated to visit the island more frequently and to stay in it longer the remmitances and the aid they send to their relatives and the expenditures they make during their visits to the island will increase.

But at the same time the totalitarian government intends to keeps control of these flows to:

1 Keep the number of people in the island within certain limits and avoid depopulation.
2 Avoid a brain drain and maintain an adequate supply of qualified personell in the island.

However, it will vary the method of establishing these controls eliminating the hated exit permits and using in its place its control over the emission of passports both within the island and abroad.

But it is now the objective of the Cuban government to adopt policies that would increase the number of non qualified Cubans of working age living abroad and of Cuban retirees staying with their families or friends abroad.
Having people of employment age working abroad solves several problems at once.

The most important one is that it produces foreign exchange in the form of remittances and increased foreign exchange expenditures.

It also reduces the unemployment rate in the island that the government is unable to accomplish in any other way without creating social unrest.

It also diminishes the social dissatisfaction that comes along with a high unemployment rate and the unnecessary expenses that result from paying salary to uneeded workers.

Increased emmigration also works as a safety valve since it induces people to try to better their lot by emigrating instead of ecoming frustrated when they see no way out and attempt to revolt against their government.

Since the possiblility of traveling abroad or visitiing the island depend on being granted a passport and the pasports would not be granted to government opoonents, the pasport controls will promote non participation in opposition activities both in the island and abroad.

Also by increasing the number of economic immigrants in the foreign countries and stimulating political passivity and the desire to maintain linkls with their homeland it will reduce the influence of political exiles in the Cuban diaspora.

The increase of the economic immigrants abroad is also expected to exert a positive influence in favor of bettering the relations between the government of Cuba and both the governments of the United States and the European Union.

Also, since pensions will not be paid for those living abroad, the increase of the number of retirees visiting their families abroad and staying for longer periods of time is expected to reduce the cost of social security within the island as well as increase the remittances that they send home and the expenditures in foreign currency that they make when they return to the island.

The Cuban government also wishes to extend the number of retirees of Cuban origin living abroad who visit the island and increase the length of their stays there in order to obtain more foreign exchange.


Anonymous said...

To help accomplish these purpose, the length of time Cubans may remain abroad without loosing their residence in the island has been extended from one year to two.

The new regulation also allows this two year period to be renewed.

Also the monthly fees that had to be paid while living abroad have been eliminated.

They will also not lose their property in Cuba or their right to visit it periodically and someday returning to reside permanently in the island.

All these measure will allow many more non qualified Cuban workers and retirees to live abroad and become residents and citizens of foreign countries.

At the same time increasing from one month to six the amount of time that Cubans living abroad can live in the island and making it possible to extend this period and even to provide housing projects that would allow them to reside there as retirees will make it possible for additional sums of foreign exchange that are are desperately needed to be earned.

Of course the benefits of these policies, the increased supply of foreign exchange will not be obtained without some disadvantages.

This increased volume of Cubans entering and leaving the island will necessarily bring about an increased penetration of foreign ideas from the countries where the Cubans are residing abroad.

This will of course help to change the outlook of the island's population and will eventually lead to increased demands for political and economic reform.

So there will be costs as well as benefits for teh Cuban totalitarian government resulting from the migrations reforms it adopted.

But evidently the Cuban government believes that the short run, economic, political and social benefits of such policies outweigh the long run destabilizing influence of the increased entry of foreign ideas to the island.

Besides the existing short run mess existing in the country might be placing the survival of the totalitarian government in such peril that long run costs are of little concern.

Of course, in the long run such measures will not stop democratic reform from coming to Cuba.

As the Cuban saying goes, "There is no illness that can last a century nor human that can withstand it!"

But such Machiavellian policies might very well retard it for a few years giving the present generations of Cuban leaders the possibility to maintain power and enjoy its benefits for the few remaining of their lives instead of ending up against a wall facing a firing squad.

This may be all that concerns them at present. They are probably quite happy to survive for the moment and giving little thought about the problems their present policies might be creating for their successors.

"Apres de moi le deluge" seems to be a maxim that has appealed, not only to King Louis XV of France, but to most politicians througout the world in all ages.

It is always easier to kick the can down the road than to take a bull by the horns and find solutions to existing problems.

An example of this is how long it has taken american politicians to find solutions for:

1- The Israeli Palestinian conflict.
2- The failed immigration policy of the United States.
3= The balance of payments deficit of our country.

Why should we expect Cuban politicians to act any differently?

It is natural for them to try to hold on to power for a little longer with quick fixes instead of attempting to apply lasting solutions that would ensure the future the Cuban population in an age of incresing global competition.

Because of this, the country's problems will continue to accummulate and cause it to fall further and further behind and the population of the island to become more and more depauperated until finally the day of reckoning will occur!