Cubans Right to be Tourists

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

At the Jose Marti International Airport. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, June 7 — Personally, I am a resolved supporter of change toward a future in Cuba produced through a transition that is as less painful as possible.  I also believe that by holding this position I am in agreement with the majority of Cubans who live on the island and in the diaspora.

However, I always take the time to distinguish between those things that are true changes and those other ones that are no more than camouflage.  What’s new and what’s more of the same old thing.

Drawing on the virtuous dialectics of Hegel, we can distinguish between simple quantitative change and what represents a true qualitative leap.

I have to stop in this lecture to call attention to the enthusiasm displayed by analysts, observers and journalists about the blessed Article 265 of the reform “Guidelines” approved by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.  In this, almost in passing, a sentence was added that speaks of “studying a policy that facilitates Cuban residents in the country traveling abroad as tourists.”

The first thing that catches one’s attention is the wording.  Observe how many delays there are in getting to the kernel.   One can note all the detours taken to say that they could allow Cubans to do what any person in most parts of the world does if they have the desire, visa and money.  In any other part of the world — with a few exceptions — this is a very simple decision.  But in Cuba it’s a decision with major political repercussions.

If they did indeed allow Cubans to travel freely, the Cuban political system would be exposed to a lethal hemorrhage.

On the one hand the system would lose political control over the population, as people would no longer require the official permission to leave.  Consequently they would be under no obligation to “behave well” in order to travel, which not only implies spiritual expansion from contact with other worlds and other people, but also the satisfaction of many basic family needs.

On the other hand, it would introduce an element of probable disruption when allowing the Cuban population’s contact with an external world whose description as being absolutely evil is the basis of one of the arguments of the Cuban leaders’ assertion of the superiority of Cuban “socialism”.

And finally, what is no less important amid the chronic financial hunger of the government is that this freedom to travel would mean the state giving up many tens of millions of dollars.

All told, it is a foregone conclusion that this “study-of-policies-that-will-facilitate” tourism won’t be a priority.  I will take a good while before something is decided.  Then too, it’s also a foregone conclusion that this will not imply a substantial change, but probably a partial elimination of some current restrictions (like, for example, the removing of the requirement of a letter of invitation or a general cost reduction; or doing away with the feudal step of “non-objection,” whereby it’s necessary to request this from the last entity where the potential traveler worked).  I don’t believe that much more will result.

There is nothing qualitatively new.  It’s a lot of camouflage, a political ruse that will remove moral pressure and will win them the applause from not very well informed observers and from that crowd of worshipers conditioned to only watch for a blink of the eye to be convinced that they are loved.

But especially, when this step is made, it will be an example of how the Cuban system has to make small concessions in the political environment so that the changes in the economy will function.

What this involves, above all, is offering the new rich and the emerging middle class (incubated in the state business operations and by the technocracy tied to foreign-owned investment and the black market) an opportunity to spend their incomes to avoid the disincentive and sterility of hoarding.

There’s not much more.  And so that no one makes a mistake in this respect, the party hierarches inserted this in a paragraph where they talk about the economy and tourism, but not civil rights.

This is like what old man Vito said: “Pure business.”


2 thoughts on “Cubans Right to be Tourists

  • It’s incredible. I was searched for the website like this one for a long time and I finally found!

  • I am a neophyte concerning Cuba and do not regard myself as a student of politics in any way. I am not clear why “…this freedom to travel would mean the state giving up many tens of millions of dollars.” Would you please illuminate this point further?

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