Raul Castro loosens travel restrictions for Cubans
Friday, April 18th 2008, 10:12 AM
Raul Castro plans to lift restrictions on foreign travel for Cubans,
allowing them to leave the country without permission from the
authorities, it was reported Friday.
Residents will no longer need to obtain special permission to leave the
island, or a legalized letter of invitation, the Spanish language
newspaper El Pais said, citing sources close to the government.
The changes could take effect in the coming days or weeks and are a
further sign Raul, who became president in February, plans to lift many
of the restrictions which defined his brother Fidel's rule.
Cubans have previously had to obtain a so-called "white card" to leave
the island. The process can take months and there is no guarantee of
This exit visa would still apply to doctors, recently graduated
university students who have not performed their required "social
service," military personnel and members of the Interior Ministry "with
access to information that affects state security."
The change means Cubans would be allowed to stay abroad, for perhaps as
long as two years without problems.
Minors would also be allowed to travel abroad with their parents.
Under the current rules, Cubans can stay abroad for up to 11 months, but
lose their right to return home if they remain out of the country longer.
It is not clear if the changes will be adopted as a single measure, or
Raul has introduced a host of reforms in other areas in an attempt to
lift what he calls "excessive prohibitions".
He lifted a ban on Cubans buying consumer goods such as computers, DVD
players, microwave ovens and other electronic appliances which was
previously prohibited due to an energy crisis.
Cubans can now stay at hotels and beach resorts that used to be reserved
for foreigners only, ending a "tourism apartheid".
As of April 14, Cubans have been able to freely buy and use cellular
telephones, something that had been available only to government
officials and foreign companies.