Friday, May 13, 2011

Framing the issue: Freedom to be "tourists" or the right to leave and return to one's country of birth

A man unloads bags at Havana’s international airport. The Communist Party’s newly released economic guidelines say the government will study the possibility of letting Cubans travel abroad as tourists.
Photo: Franklin Reyes/AP

The recently amended lineameintos published in the wake Cuba's 6th Party Congress included the hint that the government is considering revising (but not, it seems, abolishing) the hated "white card" (or exit permit).

Take a look at this Christian Science Monitor article which focuses on the issue.

The language in the published Communist Party document is telling as it says tha the government will "study a policy that allows Cubans living in the country to travel abroad as tourists." Framing the issue this way is, to my mind, a cynical attempt to cloud the issue.

It is not a question of Cubans wanting to be tourists but one of any citizen's right to leave and return to their contry of birth without asking permission of their government.

Then, of course, there are two other BIG questions: Who can get a foreign visa and who has the money to pay for the plane ticket?

The CSM article points this out, saying, "President Raúl Castro's economic reforms in Cuba appear set to deliver long-sought freedom, even if few can afford to go anywhere."

Let's hope my skepticism is misplaced and that there is a real debate within the Party to restore a fundamental right to Cuban citizens. 

However, if the government abolishes the exit permit, it will also be voluntary giving up one of the key weapons in its arsenal of control. 

Many potential critics are silenced for fear of being denied this exit permit (to emigrate, attend a conference or prefessional event, or simply visit a friend or relative abroad).  And others who are already outspoken internal critics of the system are routinely punished by the govennment's withholding of this permit.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Henken makes an important point regarding every citizen's right to leave and enter their country without having to obtain permission from their own governement. Hopefully this right will one day be fully respected by the Cuban government, as well as by the U.S. government with respect to travel to Cuba. Travel to and from Cuba, and the free exchange of ideas and access to otherwise prohibited information that it would bring, would do more to advance the cause of freedom and human rights in Cuba than the last 50 years of the embargo which has accomplished nothing, other than to give the Cuban government a ready excuse for their failures.