Since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, the Caribbean island nation of Cuba has imposed harsh restrictions on those who want to leave. However, in a historic change, the country has opened its borders to allow citizens to travel abroad.
For decades, Cubans who want to travel out of the country needed exit permits and letters of invitation from destination countries. The strict exit requirements and the poor economic conditions on the island led hundreds of thousands of Cubans to make a dangerous journey through shark-infested waters to nearby Florida.
Restrictions for professionals like doctors have been even stricter, since Cuba is concerned that if allowed to travel, these highly educated individuals will decide to live somewhere else.
Many Cuban families have been fractured by the law.
The new law requires Cubans to have a passport and a national I.D. card to leave, and allows them to stay for up to two years without risking their citizenship.
While many see this as a step toward freedom in Cuba, some see it as a way for the Cuban government to get rid of dissatisfied individuals.
"It is a decree that doesn't give the Cuban people freedom to travel, but rather promotes an exodus, in order to reduce the tensions that exist in this country because of the profound economic crisis," said outspoken government critic D. Oscar Elias Biscet.
The State Department said that it will reserve judgment on the new policy until it has been implemented.
1. Where is Cuba?
2. What do you know about Cuba?
3. What do you need to do if you want to travel to a different country?
1. Why do you think the Cuban government is easing travel restrictions now?
2. What is the U.S. government’s policy towards Cuba? Do you think it should be changed? Why or why not?
3. What can the Cuban government do to encourage people to stay in Cuba?
4. How would your life be different if you were born in Cuba?
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