An ex-intelligence officer seeking free travel rights for Cubans has said his petition was rejected and denounced what he called the “increase in totalitarian repression” under President Raul Castro.
Pedro Anibal Riera, also a former diplomat, said in a statement Tuesday that Cuba’s National Assembly, by failing to take action in the required 60-day period since his April request, has rejected his reform effort. In the Americas’ only one-party communist state, Riera’s plan seeks reforms, including allowing Cubans to enter and leave the country freely; ending confiscation of property of those leaving Cuba permanently; allowing Cubans who live abroad to vote; and permitting Cubans living abroad to invest in Cuba. Mariela Castro, a daughter of Raul Castro who is a sociologist and sex educator, told Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper in an interview last month that all Cubans who want to should be allowed to leave the country freely as long as they have no criminal case pending.
Riera, 56, voiced disappointment that it had become “publicly” known that the government was about to end travel restrictions, but then that migration reform had ended up “stuck in a freezer somewhere.”
He suggested that ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro might be the one dragging feet behind the end to travel restrictions, and “that could be why it has not happened.”
Now “without even a reform process under way, a counter-reform and an increase in totalitarian repression has begun,” charged Riera, a former consul in Mexico who was jailed for three years in Cuba after being expelled from Mexico for using false documentation. “There has been zero political opening, and timid economic measures, which don’t even match the more rational and effective parts of Soviet socialism or state socialism,” Riera said, referring to steps by Raul Castro’s government since he took over permanently in February.
Since then, Raul Castro, 77, has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only accessible to foreigners if they can afford such luxuries.
In the latest reform move, he announced this month that the government was scrapping salary caps long meant to underscore egalitarianism but which his administration says hurt productivity.
He also has implemented reforms that give farmers better pay and more flexibility to buy farming equipment, a move designed to lessen the impact of the world food crisis.
The younger Castro brother also has commuted 30 death sentences, released some political prisoners, and signed human rights accords.
In addition, television has fewer taboos and Granma, the venerable Communist Party mouthpiece, even has taken to publishing grievances from residents.
But Raul Castro has made no nod to political pluralism, and his economic reforms have been very limited.
A change on decades-old travel restrictions would be the most momentous to date by his government.
The Spanish daily El Pais cited an unnamed government official in a report in April as saying Raul Castro would give a green light soon to migration reform, simplifying exit and entry permits and ending the requirement for people to get permission to leave the country.