Sign of progress in Cuba?
Christopher Sabatini on whether losing travel restrictions for Cubans will bring real change to the communist country
- Duration 12:57
- Date Jan 3, 2013
Christopher Sabatini on whether losing travel restrictions for Cubans will bring real change to the communist country
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-- cue up one of our very -- reporters down in the Miami bureau mr.
I'm talking about I don't know -- happy new year to you my friends have been you view as well good to see you visit.
Yes we really -- wanna come -- is especially when you've got a background like that we're here in the cold.
In New York City unbelievable -- -- I hear that there are signs of progress in Cuba a lot of action going on bring us up to speed.
Certainly signs of progress ninety miles to the south of the Florida Keys however what actually happened is about two weeks from now remains to be seen you know the basic right of movement but people around the world take for granted has been denied Cubans.
For fifty plus years but on January 14 a revolutionary.
Out of Havana at least.
A revolutionary change on paper.
Decree -- -- -- is the requirement that all Cubans and today in the book almost unattainable exit visa known as the -- had to -- -- But Cubans still must have a passport which the government controls.
And can still deny.
But still this offers long -- -- hope or perhaps false hope.
-- -- Sure the ones -- have the money when you heard that not everyone can travel when there's no money that is for the rich I -- Miley also paying it's something marvelous.
There we have been waiting a long time for that finally it's here.
Cubans will also mean of these from the country that they want to visit which is not expected to be simple because a lot of these other countries will certainly suspected that Cubans are going to stay and not return back to.
Cuba and then become somewhat of a drain on their own societies Cuba is broke.
The system is -- -- people are four and this allows Castro according to critics.
To challenge the US to do the same.
And finally allow Americans to travel to Cuba for vacations.
And of course spend all important US dollars.
The desire of the Cuban government is number one.
To live in great number of Cubans leave because there is less smiles to feed.
And second and probably more important he's a way to putting pressure on the US government.
To -- the trouble -- Here in South Florida many if not most Cuban Americans.
Have essentially been ridiculing this proposal by the Castro regime.
As this will not be any change whatsoever because these -- force for example cost a hundred dollars.
She was a very poor and that is beyond these spending policies.
Of many millions of Cubans down there as for Washington's reaction to this the US State Department is withholding comment waiting to see.
What exactly happens in practicality.
Whether truly life does change for Cubans after fifty plus years again.
Essential Cubans will not -- going to be allowed to get these passports people like scientists engineers.
Military age youth.
They still won't be able to leave the island because.
Cuban government wants to make sure that they don't leave and not return.
Well yeah interesting point -- either thinking about a mass exodus.
Or you know a lot of a lot of -- sound that you have area near you bring up that really great points that people don't have the money.
To really travel like that thank you so much for that report Phil Keating we'll keep our eyes on -- and on that story as we move through the new year.
-- -- there right thanks -- joining us here on set to talk more about this very important subject matter as a friend Christopher Sabatini.
The senior director of policy America's society and counsel of the Americans yes thank you thank you so much for being with us here today that shed some perspective.
On what Phil was just telling us I mean this is a big deal as we discussed before going into the story before we heard from Phil.
The decision has -- -- was being called -- euphoria on the island many people excited.
Many people concerned about a mass exodus but you know Phil brought up that break point.
About the money so what is move by the Castro regime really show -- -- changes here.
Well in terms of changes with all things when it comes to Cuban revolution its attempts to reform the proof will really be in the tasting of the putting.
Or in the case of Cuba flops post after -- home and there's going to be a lot of proved to be hat I mean.
Theoretically things will change on January 14 and what's happened in Q what's existed for a long time is that prohibition on human beings fundamental right to travel.
They've had it did before they've allow themselves to issue exit visas.
That were -- to basic dissidents and human to human rights activists to leave the island to accept towards travel overseas to learn to study.
On now they've ended the exit fees -- the problem is.
As Phil was saying is that there is the problem of the whole issue of the passport first of all -- expensive.
But second of all the Cuban government does reserve the right to deny people passports.
On based on issues of national security which as we know the Cuban regime.
Uses a broad.
Arbitrary measure of what his national security right and also -- human resources but.
Having said that there are reasons for why the Cuban government wants -- to -- First of all.
It does need to generate hard currency the Cuban government Cuban economy is basically.
Screaming right now it it desperately needs hard currency and even more so now what -- the news coming out of Venezuela and possibly -- Robinson's -- right so what the ideas get people more Cubans outside the island.
Who could actually work and now they've extended their ability to state now from eleven months to 24 months.
With the idea of having them remit.
Payments back to the family that that regime could then capture for its own hard currency.
And as the commentator said -- usually Q earlier.
Is that the ideas of skim off some of this broad and and boiling public frustration that's happening in -- -- All over the lack of economic reform for the lack of social progress and this will provide an opportunity.
Are much as the Cuban government has benefited from what time is having safety valve to -- people who escaped and not actually be in the island and opposed -- -- Now -- should we really look at this Navarro pastor as progress I mean.
It sounds like progress that is still think it's like -- -- to you -- -- -- but it's gonna cost you lot you may not be able to get out and.
It is progress in the sense that well first of all the can -- the lozenge is used does not accept does not declare the Cubans fundamental right to freedom to travel.
So it would stop progress in the sense of their own rights and -- it is progress in the sense secure more Cubans will be able to travel.
And it it's an implicit recognition.
Of the inherent.
Lack of equality and and let justice -- the justice of the requirement of an exit fees from.
So like with many of these reforms that are going on -- now the core course the last two years.
There's an implicit recognition of the failure of the -- regime which is very important means I think many ways the legitimacy is beginning to crumble.
Now in terms of what this means practically -- -- tough to say I think you'll see more people leaving one of things that keep an eye out for this.
Is that while the Cubans.
Demand require -- visa -- the United States could and it states what you're going to see is a lot more Cubans traveling to third countries.
To go to the United States US is immigration policy.
-- -- -- -- US land wet foot dry foot which means it's -- they set foot in went they're given residency status and you see a lot more Cubans.
Trying to go to Mexico Central America or Venezuela or other places and then from there try to get to that state so it.
In many ways this is a challenge to US's own immigration policy.
While a lot to look out for now I understand you're actually in Cuba less than a month ago that what -- what would you say that life is like for everyday Cubans right now and you do you think that this new program could benefit them we've heard again that -- mean you.
Since you've just been there we've heard reports of you know euphoria.
And then we've heard you know.
The -- that Phil Keating had -- -- some people like you know he had great for the people who can afford it.
Yes and I think that's you hear that everywhere you go I mean there's a huge pent up demand for change in Cuba let's put this bluntly.
The revolution came in 1959 and this to the same people who led the revolution are still a -- who wouldn't want change now they may not want the change that everyone wants.
-- but there's of pent up a demand for change so.
-- which -- beginning to see in Cuba now is.
-- in part because of the reforms which were really in many ways a recognition of people's demands the changes have happened with an economy are beginning to see now for the first time.
Small shop small -- for -- -- its -- really examples of private sector activity and a very rudimentary fashion.
That -- really challenging the hegemony of the Cuban regime and control over the economy and those are responding to people's basic human needs.
But large scale structural change is not happening in Cuba and the frustration is very -- can speak to young people and most of what they say as.
We just want to go elsewhere.
Want to go to the red states who wanna.
Wanna go to Europe we don't want to be here they're recognized they recognize the failings of the regime and they recognize and they fear.
The pace of -- reforms that the regime is implement it -- not gonna go fast enough.
To meet their basic demand.
We talked about the relations between the United States and Cuba obviously there's a lot of history there.
Do you think that we should keep the status quo or should we engage with them how well moving forward.
Where juices going more to think -- -- well first off support to recognize that the US embargo is law.
It's inscribed in codified as lawn requires an active US congress.
Particularly to change the provision for US travelers to travel to Cuba -- tourism so.
There is a very limited scope for the president be able to act on this but having said that I think that we by isolating Cuba for so long.
By not allowing for freedom of information I think there -- ways which we can began and we need to begin to recognize that.
This is not a zero sum game.
By allowing four communicate greater communication by allowing for greater intellectual travel.
By allowing even for certain elements of commercial change between private actors.
In Cuba and private actors outside Cuba we can begin to engage in -- is that the -- the pent up demand for change is real you know you've.
And we need to begin to you know not recognize that this is.
As I like to say the toothpaste is out of the tube in Cuba there they could ever put it back right at and is now it's probably -- -- engage in a prostitution not with the regime.
But with the people down below who really want that change are beginning to show -- -- a remarkable amount of dynamism.
That it really is really challenging the regime and very fundamental ways and that's where US policies look to really really -- -- So as as we look at the policies between US and Cuba.
How do you think the policy compares between former president George W.
Bush and president Barack Obama.
Well George W.
Bush when he came in office roll back a lot of the reforms that existed under.
He had limited -- limited George W.
Remit the amount that Cuban Americans could -- to the island.
And he recently limited the amount of times of Cuban Americans to travel to the island and ended what were called people to people contacts.
Since then president Barack Obama has basically lifted the limits on remittances for Cuban Americans lifted -- amount of the Cuban Americans to travel and reopened people to people contacts but basically what you've seen -- sort of an expansion of -- you know the collapse across three.
This Heather has been a dramatic change I think there's scope for even more dramatic change in areas of telecommunications.
In other areas that could help expand this and one other thing we're seeing.
The for the first time is Cuban Americans.
Are going to the island they're traveling around the meeting with the relatives.
-- really building that level of bridging communication connection that is I think softening the fear that exists and lot of -- segments in Cuba that when change comes.
He could mean a loss of property of their loss of life in a hole.
List -- and that is I think we need to be and a build those sort of people to people contacts that we're beginning to do now.
Well sounds like 2013 is going to be an interesting year.
Facilities -- -- -- all of this Christopher Sabatini senior director of policy.
America's deciding council of the Americas thank you so much for being with us breaking it down in giving us some perspective on this really excellent story -- -- appreciate you being here today.
Thank you so much -- so we're gonna.