For the first time in over 50 years, Cuba appears set to allow its citizens to travel abroad as tourists. The proposal is one of the main novelties in over 300 reforms backed by the Communist Party Congress and released in new economic guidelines. Others include access to bank loans or other financial services and the ability to buy or sell private property such as cars and houses. By half-heartedly opening the doors to private business activity, the proposals are designed to rescue a crisis-plagued economy.
Since taking over power from his brother Fidel in 2008, Cuban President Raul Castro has supported limited free-market amendments. Appearing together at a recent party congress in Havana, Fidel demonstrated his support of his younger brother's policies. However, critics are skeptical. The reforms published in Granma newspaper, the official voice of the party, give little detail as to how these changes will be carried out.
Technically, Cubans can already travel abroad as tourists. However, the government must grant them a coveted white card. The paperwork can cost hundreds of dollars and is often denied. If the paperwork goes through, Cuban citizens must make a timely return to not be considered a permanent émigré and thus lose their properties on the island.