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Posted April 09, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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By Stephen Gibbs | BBC correspondent in Havana

Havana wants more Cuban exiles to visit the island and spend money.

The Cuban government has confirmed that from June, Cubans living abroad will no longer need to apply for a visa to visit the Caribbean island.

They will require a Cuban passport to visit the Communist-led state.
The move, announced by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, appears designed to increase tourism.

Since the Cuban revolution in 1959, almost 10% of the population has left, but many want to return - usually to visit their families.

Currently, most have to go through a lengthy and costly process of applying for a visa from the Cuban authorities every time they want to visit.

In the past, Cuba has justified this procedure as a control against anti-Castro elements who might be coming back with violent intentions.

But many see it as unfair, and question why they need a visa to go home.

Mr Perez Roque says that from 1 June the rules will change.

Cubans abroad can apply for a Cuban passport that will enable them to come and go as they please.

Over 100,000 already do so annually.

Although the Cuban government is often scathing about those that have chosen to leave the country, it realises that they are also an important source of tourist dollars when they come back.

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