Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cuba Eases Restrictions on Foreign Travel

Yesterday the Cuban government announced historic changes to its migration policy, allowing Cubans greater freedom to travel and work abroad. According to Cuba’s state-owned Granma newspaper, Cubans will no longer need to apply for an exit visa in order to leave the country beginning January 14th, 2013, when a new migration law takes effect.  They will also no longer be required to present a letter of invitation from a resident of their desired destination.

As CNN reports, the fees for both of these requirements are currently around $350, an impossibly large sum in a country where the average monthly income is $460. The new law will require Cubans to submit only a valid passport and a visa from their destination in order to travel. It also extends the amount of time that Cubans can lawfully remain abroad from 11 months to 24 months with the possibility of extension.

As the Pan-American Post reported, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon hinted that changes to the unpopular migration restrictions were in the works back in May, although no timeline for the reform was given at the time.

The AP notes that the move will still restrict travel for doctors, scientists and members of the military in order to prevent brain drain, as Granma reports that "measures will remain to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful."

News Briefs

  • A Cuban court has sentenced Spanish citizen Angel Carromero Barrios to four years in prison for his role as the driver in a car crash that killed dissident Oswaldo Paya in July, the New York Times reports.
  • The Times also features an interesting yet morbid look at the work of Dr. Alejandro Hernandez Cardenas, a Mexican forensic investigator who employs a unique rehydration technique to investigate murders in the Ciudad Juarez area. The paper notes that Dr. Hernandez has “attained the kind of star status that could be produced only in a city like [Juarez], with its semidesert climate, exorbitant murder rate and can-do frontier creativity.”
  • The AP reports that a Norwegian NGO has begun to dismantle thousands of anti-personnel mines along the Chile-Peru border. The minefields were set up by the government of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s during a period of tense relations with neighboring Peru.
  • With peace talks between the government of Colombia and FARC guerrillas set to take place in Oslo tomorrow, the Washington Post takes a look at the key role that Venezuela may play in facilitating the negotiations. According to the Inter-American Dialogue’s Michael Shifter, the Venezuelan government will “give some guarantees of legitimacy and credibility to the process and ensure that the talks stay on track.”
  • In Santiago, Chile, protests by some 3,000 indigenous Mapuche activists calling for increased autonomy yesterday turned violent, according to La Tercera. Sixteen people were arrested after some demonstrators began vandalizing and looting bank branches, the AP reports.
  • The head of Argentina’s Navy, Admiral Carlos Alberto Paz, resigned on Monday in response to the government of Ghana’s continued seizure of an Argentine ship at the behest of U.S. investors, La Nacion reports. Two other senior naval officials were dismissed as a result of the incident, and the African nation shows no sign of releasing the vessel any time soon.
  • Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy’s Passport Blog highlights a recent comment made by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the potential for the Central American country to adopt the Euro as legal tender.
  • The Americas Quarterly Blog features an exclusive interview with former Medellin mayor and current governor of Antioquia Sergio Fajardo. The Colombian politician offers his take on the upcoming peace talks, the importance of the middle class in the country and the region and the potential for private-public partnerships to reduce violence.  
  • The L.A. Times takes a look at the FARC’s political future in the event that peace talks result in the group’s demobilization. The emerging campesino movement known as Marcha Patriotica is widely expected to become the guerrillas’ main voice in traditional politics, although its members vehemently reject any link to the rebels.
  • Mexico’s El Universal and the L.A. Times report that the alleged daughter of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman has been arrested in San Diego after attempting to enter the United States under a false passport. Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar is pregnant, and apparently intended to travel to Los Angeles to give birth. She is not believed to be a major player in her father’s organization, although officials believe she may be able to offer useful intelligence about his whereabouts.
  • Police in the western Mexican state of Michoacan have raided three teachers’ colleges after students began hijacking buses and delivery vehicles in protest of changes to the curriculum. The AP reports that the massive police operation is a sign that the Mexican government is running out of patience with “campus takeovers,” an increasingly common form of student demonstration in the country.
  • In a passionate opinion piece, the Financial Times’ Washington bureau chief Edward Luce argues that the U.S. presidential candidates should pay greater attention to Mexico, which is “fast turning into America’s most important trading partner.”