Cuba’s parliament has started preparing for one of its infrequent sessions next week, with an agenda jammed with topics like taxes, education and corruption but no word on a promised and eagerly awaited migration reform.
Ricardo Alarcón, president de la National Assembly of People’s Power, told European journalists early this month that “there’s no date” yet for approving the migration reforms that Cuban ruler Raúl Castro promised one year ago.
Castro’s words raised hopes among many Cubans that he would ease the tough barriers to travel abroad, from the difficult-to-obtain exit permits to the high costs of passports and the policy of blocking the return of those who overstay their foreign visits.
But several recent reports in government news media detailing the preparations for the assembly sessions Monday and Tuesday have made no mention of the migration reforms — which some fear that they could open the doors to massive emigration.
The assembly meets just twice a year, each time for only two or three days. Its more than 600 deputies are elected every five years in a process controlled by the Communist Party, and have never recorded a “No” vote. Journalists are barred from most of its meetings.
One issue reported to be on the agenda is “handling voluntary starvation in the field of health,” apparently referring to terminally ill patients although two Cuban political prisoners died amid hunger strikes since 2010.
The official Granma newspaper has reported that the assembly will take up major revisions of the tax code and labor laws — apparently required by the growing number of private businesses launched under Castro’s two-year-old economic reforms.
But the rest of the issues that the assembly began to take up during preparatory meetings of 12 committees Thursday and Friday have been fairly dry, such as reports by the Central Bank, the Education Ministry and the National Institute for Hydraulic Resources.
Granma reported that the foreign affairs committee will study the impact on Cuba of the U.S. presidential elections in November and Europe’s economic crisis, as well as the case of five Cuban spies arrested in Miami and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
The national defense and other committees will take up the issues of street crime and “breaks in social discipline,” as well as the use of natural and traditional medicines “in the interest of defense,” the newspaper added.
The fight against corruption and other “illegalities” as well as the need to simplify bureaucratic procedures in the ministries of transportation, domestic commerce, tourism and communications will be taken up by the Services Committee, Granma noted.
Not mentioned as part of the agenda so far is a proposal to legally recognize gay unions that has been pushed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of the country’s ruler and director of the National Center for Sex Education.