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Sat12202014

World News South America

Cuba drops restrictions to encourage travel abroad

50 years ago, the United States nearly invaded Cuba to stop Russians from aiming nuclear bombs at us. Luckily, the Ruskies backed down and left.

This week, though, the Cuban government dropped a bomb of their own. Not literally, of course. They announced traveling out of Cuba will become a little easier starting next year.

Since 1961, Cubans have been required to get an exit visa to travel abroad, plus a letter from the person they'd be visiting. The whole process costs about $350– big money when the average Cuban only earns $460 a month.

Starting January 14th, though, they can skip those fees and just present a valid passport and an entry visa for the country they're visiting. Sounds like President Raul Castro may be loosening up the communist ties a bit.... or maybe not.

Doctors, scientists, military men– anyone really– can still get the kibosh on plans to leave the crocodile island.

"You see– they own your education," explained Peter Garcia, a Cuban-American and owner of El Meson, a Rice Village hot spot for Cuban cuisine for more than 30 years. "We're accustomed to the idea that if you go to school here, your education belongs to you. Well, in Cuba it belongs to the government."

Garcia still has family in Cuba and says this new policy could bring big change, "Cubans will be able to travel abroad and find out how the rest of the world gets along. And they'll bring those ideas back to Cuba, and that's when you'll see change happening."

But if someone does make it off the island, what's to stop them from never going back? "Love of family," Garcia said. "You still have your family members. They're not going to let you leave with all your family."

With these new rules, any chance this could turn into a Cuban Immigration Crisis in the U.S.? "No," said Garcia, "we're not that many. If a few more people leave Cuba, there won't be anyone left."

NewsFix