Cuban Parliament Chief Hints That Change is Coming: Optimistic Folks Hope for an Easing of 50 Years of Travel Restriction


It's a May Day Loyalty Day miracle! Maybe?

Whispers and some non-specific quotes suggest that "radical and profound" is coming to Cuban in the next few weeks. At least, so says Cuban Parliament Leader Ricardo Alarcon on that last part. After 50 years of Cubans fleeing by the hundreds of thousands (and often by all manner of dubious watercraft) could it be that citizens may actually be allowed to travel freely soon?

Sources say, possibly! Except that Cuba is still busy trying anything (as long as it isn't voluntary) to keep doctors, lawyers, military folks, and other brainy folk from fleeing from the tiny island. But still, there's a definite hopeful buzz that things this is a good thing about to happen. From some people. Others, says the AP:

have cautioned against over-excitement, leaving islanders and Cuba experts to wonder how far Havana's leaders are willing to go.

In the past 18 months, Castro has removed prohibitions on some private enterprise, legalized real estate and car sales, and allowed compatriots to hire employees, ideas that were long anathema to the government's Marxist underpinnings.

Scrapping travel controls could be an even bigger step, at least symbolically, and carries enormous economic, social and political risk.

Even half measures — such as ending limits on how long Cubans can live abroad or cutting the staggeringly high fees for the exit visa that Cubans must obtain just to leave the country — would be significant.

"It would be a big step forward," said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. "If Cuba ends the restrictions on its own citizens' travel, that means the only travel restrictions that would remain in place would be those the United States imposes on its citizens."

Wouldn't it be great if both countries stopped their absurd restrictions? Of course then a certain type of "radical"would have to find some other terrible country to idealize as the socialist dream that is everything the U.S. is not (even in areas where Cuba was once appalling, like gay rights, its sluggish progress can look pretty progressive if you wear the right kind of lefty-glasses). And they would find one, but it would still be an amazing thing if Cuba gave in to the inevitable siren song of free exchanges and free movements and maybe even free people.

Alas, reports The Irish Times, the island is still celebrating the glorious, stagnant revolution in their usual fashion. They still know how to do May Day right:

Raul Castro (80) has launched a series of reforms encouraging more private initiative and reducing state dominance of the fragile Soviet-style economy put in place after Cuba's 1959 revolution. He has said his goal is not to replace communism but to take steps to strengthen it.

Lest the message was not clear, the national television broadcast of the parade focused on a sign that read "To Capitalism We Will Never Return".

In the heavily orchestrated event, workers carried pictures of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his revolutionary comrade Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Marxist heroes such as Vladimir Lenin and Frederick Engels.

The words "Unity and Victory" and "Long Live the Socialist Revolution" were flashed across the television screen.

Reason on Cuba, and because it's still the best thing ever, Reason.tv interviewing the leader singer of the dissident Cuban punk band Porno Para Ricardo: