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.
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 onerous.
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.