Cuba's new travel law - announced on Tuesday in Cuba's official newspaper Granma - is being soft-peddled by the Associated Press and others as a historic first by the communist regime - a long-overdue reform giving Cubans the freedom to travel abroad for the first time in more than 50 years.
In reality, the new law is a survival tactic by the Castro regime.
It's part of the same cynicism that was behind the Mariel boatlift in 1980 when 125,000 Cubans sailed to South Florida aboard private boats -- including criminals and mental patients whom Fidel Castro had set loose. It's part of the same cynicism that Castro demonstrated during the summer of 1984 -- when he looked the other way as tens of thousands of Cubans built rafts to escape their tropical prison.
So says a clear-eyed analysis of the new travel law by Fabiola Santiago in today's Miami Herald, "New travel law just another survival tactic for Castro."
As Santiago writes:
And now comes Raúl Castro, re-inventing his brother's sure-footed strategy to send the enemy into exile - and relieve the pressure on the government to undertake meaningful reforms - by making it easier for the disenchanted masses to leave while retaining control of who travels.
While this may seem a blessing to a people without hope, when Cuba talks "immigration reform" and "new travel measures," only one thing is certain: There will be major - and unfavorable - implications for the United States, particularly for South Florida.
Clues to Cuba's intentions are in the details of the new rules.
They exempt medical professionals, scientists, and other desirable skilled would-be emigrants, and the military. They sweeten the offer to the Revolution-bred masses by assuring them that they would be welcomed back to Cuba and could retain their resident benefits as long as they return every two years.
In other words, travel to the mythical Miami, city with streets paved in exile gold; become a resident after a year under the Cuban Adjustment Act and be eligible for U.S. benefits; send thousands of dollars and goods to Cuba; come vacation in Varadero - and even collect a few pesos (those $20-a-month Cuban pensions), rent or sell your home and keep your old Lada.
"This is a way to get rid of Cuba's population because they cannot meet the economic needs of the people," says Andy S. Gomez, senior fellow at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. "They do it with bad intentions. They know that the young people of Cuba are looking for any opportunity to leave the country.... As a young woman told me in Santiago de Cuba, 'Anywhere but here.'"
It's also no accident that the new travel rules are timed to go into effect on Jan. 13, days from the U.S. presidential inauguration.
No matter who wins the election, Cuban officials will be able to peddle their brand of truth to the Cuban people - particularly the disenchanted youth - that it's not their government prohibiting travel, but the imperialist monster to the North. Another ploy to force their way into the American agenda.
And so, then, forget about the positive spin being put forth about the new travel rules. The devil is in the details.