The U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana did not see any increase in its perennially long line of visa applicants Monday because only Cubans with consular appointments, usually set one year or more in advance, can enter the complex, according to one foreign diplomat.
Although no mass exodus of Cubans is expected, said Havana human rights dissident Elizardo Sanchez, there are “several million Cubans who dream of leaving the island, as though it were a prison.”
Most countries require Cubans to obtain visas in Havana before they travel there. But at least 15 and perhaps as many as 35 require either nothing at all or “tourist cards” that can be bought on arrival at their airports.
Fariñas, who won the Sakharov Prize for human rights awarded by the European Parliament in 2010, said a group of senior State Security officials turned up at his home Monday in the central city of Santa Clara to inform him that he would be “permitted to leave and return.”
“These are some of the same people who repress us dissidents on a daily basis, so yes, yes, their visit was a little surprising,” he told El Nuevo Herald by telephone. Fariñas said he was denied exit permits four times, while Sanchez has been denied about 20 times since 2002.
Ladies in White leader Berta Soler said she has not received any similar notification, but would like to travel to France to pick up the Sakharov Prize that the dissident women’s group won in 2005 but was never allowed to pick up in person.
The exit permits were first required Jan. 9, 1959 as Fidel Castro’s guerrillas tried to block the escape of supporters of the toppled Batista government. And while Cubans hated it intensely, a recent government report claimed that from 2000 to 2012 only .6 percent of the requests were rejected.
The same government report noted that during the same period, 941,953 Cubans travelled abroad — an average of 72,457 per year in a nation of 11.2 million — and that “only” 12.8 percent did not return. Those figures do not match U.S. government reports showing that 38,000 to 40,000 Cubans arrived in the United States alone per year in the past decade.
The Communist Party’s Granma newspaper noted in an editorial Monday that the reforms were designed to “make sure that migratory movements are carried out in legal, orderly and secure manner, as well as to strengthen relations with emigrants.”
In contrast, it added, the U.S. policies that favor Cuban migrants, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act and the so-called “dry-foot, wet-foot” policy, are designed with the goal of “hostility, subversion and destabilization and against the legitimate interests of our country.”
U.S. efforts at “stealing” Cuban brains, such as special U.S. considerations for Cuban doctors who defect while on foreign assignments, justify the need to restrict the departures of professionals and others with skills that are vital for the country, Granma added.
“A minority group of persons will be subject to special regulations on their departures from the country, which does not imply a prohibition but rather that they will have to receive the appropriate approval,” the newspaper added.