While Cubans on the island celebrated a government announcement easing travel restrictions, some Cuban-Americans were skeptical the changes would have much impact on improving travel between the two adversarial nations.
While eliminating the need for a letter of invitation and an exit visa to travel abroad as well as the necessity for reentry permits for Cubans who live outside the island and want to visit, the Cuban government still retained the right to limit travel for a broad swath of Cubans.
I dont think it will make that much difference. It wont change much for me or my family, said Dr. Lisset Oropesa, who arrived in the United States in 2008 after studying in Belgium.
She was working in Brussels with the permission of the Cuban government when she was offered a scholarship to pursue a PhD. But she was told to return home first. Afraid that she might not not be allowed to return to her studies in Belgium, she stayed.
Now Im considered a traitor, she said. What I would like to see is for people like me to be allowed to go back to Cuba to visit.
According to a 30-page document published Tuesday in Cubas Gaceta Oficial outlining the changes in Cubas migration laws that will take effect Jan. 14, Cubans who want to leave or enter the country can do so with a Cuban passport. But there will still be restrictions.
For example, those who have been declared undesirable or expelled cant go home nor will those considered hostile to the political, economic and social principles of the Cuban state be admitted.
Cubans in certain categories such as top sports figures, those considered essential to preserving the workforce in key scientific and technical areas, and military and government officials wont be able to obtain an ordinary passport and must request specialized passports from their supervisors. There is also a catch-all category that prohibits Cubans for other reasons of public interest from obtaining passports.
We would note that the Cuban government has not lifted the measures it has in place to preserve what it calls the human capital created by the revolution. So the question is going to be whether those other requirements are going to continue to restrict the ability of the Cuban people to take advantage of this change, said Victoria Nuland, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, in a Tuesday briefing..
If the reform were real, it wouldnt place restrictions on professionals, said Gerardo de la Paz, who was at an air conditioning repair shop in Hialeah on Tuesday when the new policy was announced. Its like laughing at the Cuban population. If they say the brains who studied cant leave, then theyre only going to let the workers, those who dont have an education and the delinquents leave.
South Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said she isnt impressed by the changes either.
These so-called reforms are nothing more than Raúl Castros desperate attempts to fool the world into thinking that Cuba is changing, but anyone who knows anything about the communist 53-year old Castro dictatorship knows that Cuba will only be free when the Castro family and its lackeys are no longer on the scene, Ros-Lehtinen said.