The right to leave and then come back to their own country freely has been denied to Cubans for as long as the Caribbean island has been under one-party, Castrist rule. Now it seems they could be allowed to be away for as long as two years.
They always needed an exit permit, which was valid for just 30 days. Under a strict law, it was supposedly renewable ten times. But the authorities could refuse it without giving any explanation, and if the holder stayed out longer than 30 days he lost the right of return.
Restrictions like that drove Cubans to desperation. For many it meant exile. Some two million Cubans live abroad – in the US for the most part.
Considering reform is a new experience for many.
“Reuniting Cuban families with members outside the country would be a good change,” said a man interviewed at random in the capital. “I think, for those here who have family, children and parents in the United States, it would be good.”
An energetic, elderly woman said: “I think it is good. We should change this system, so Cubans can go wherever they want to go.”
One Havana resident insisted: “Cuban society has always been free to keep or abolish restrictions…” but it seemed a confused view of the past, given that power was centralised in the hands of a few.
But Cuba is changing now, towards more economic pragmatism, reducing the stranglehold of ideology. Recently it became legal to sell property and cars, for instance, and to take out a bank loan.
A woman customer at the bank said: “It’s very important and gives us the possibility to acquire things we don’t have the cash to pay for.”
More praise for the measure allowing people to buy credit: “It’s good for people starting from zero.
Economic liberalisation means bidding a farewell to Marxist theoretical orthodoxy. Letting people work for themselves is capitalism. Reforms like this to the archaic, economically dysfunctional Castrist state mean a new Cuba.