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Cuban Economy Is Still Stagnant Despite Reforms: Cuban National


"The United States is the ceiling of heaven," says Cuban national.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Nearly 60 years after the Cuban Revolution, much has changed: It's now legal for citizens to own and sell property, start a business, and emigrate (at least to Spain and Ecuador if not the US). This year, Cuba released numerous political prisoners, made it easier for Cubans to travel, and expanded other personal liberties as well as private sector jobs (178 private sector job categories and 350,000 licensed business owners now exist). For the first half of 2012, the island's economic growth was reported to be 2.1% -- better than what was seen in the United States. For all of 2012, its been reported that Cuba will grow a total of 3.1%, missing the government's estimate of 3.4%.

As restrictions ease, however, more Cubans are arriving in the US by various measures. The US accepts 20,000 Cubans per year via the immigration lottery; thousands more are accepted under family reunifications plans and political asylum. Via the terms of the "1995 wet-foot, dry-foot policy" amendment to the 1966 Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act, any Cuban who shows up in the US is automatically allowed entry without a visa and can apply for residency one year later. In recent years, the number of Cubans availing themselves of the Refugee Act has been between 4,000 and 5,000. Yet last year, the Miami Herald estimated that this figure had risen to 7,400 per year while other sources say that number is close to 10,000.

Probably the most perilous way to enter the US is by boat from Cuba. Last month, the
South Florida Sun Sentinel (via ABC News Univision) reported that the largest number of Cubans have tried to reach the United States this way since the financial crisis began in 2008. The US Coast Guard detained 1,275 Cubans traveling by boat in the 2012 fiscal year ending in September versus just 422 in 2010. Another 97 have been picked up over the past month and a half.

According to many experts, government reforms themselves have emboldened citizens to leave the country. Decree-Law No. 302, which goes into effect on January 14, 2013, modifies Law No. 1312, or "Immigration Law." Among other changes to immigration law, the decree lessens the punishment for those who left the country after 1990 and wish to return to visit the island. Cubans can also travel abroad more easily next year.

Minyanville spoke with a Cuban national who has been in the US about one month to find out more. The individual (identified as "he" for the sake of this article) did not want the specifics of his arrival (which is legal if he leaves shortly) revealed. However, it is well know that Cubans have come to the US through Canada, Mexico, Ecuador (where approximately 100,000 Cubans have settled), and Spain (where thousands of Cubans of Spanish descent have been allowed to move.)

The main reason Cubans are on the move, said our source, is that the local economy is stagnant. "One thing is what [the government] tells you, and another is the truth. The economy really isn't doing better. There are a lot of government programs to help improve the economy, but there are no perceptible results. There is a lot of poverty."

On a side note, Cuban-Americans who had migrated in the 1960s after Castro came to power were present during the interview, and added their own commentary mostly to complain that the source was sugar-coating answers although it's hard to believe "a lot of poverty" is painting a rosy picture.
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