A Policy Difficult to Understand / Fernando Damaso

One of the demands the Cuban government is making of its American counterpart as part of the normalization of relations is the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and an end to the preferential treatment professionals who leave the island receive under the so-called wet foot, dry foot policy.

The recent stampede to Ecuador and the arrival of massive numbers of Cuban emigres in Costa Rica are being used — with the help of the Nicaraguan government, which is prohibiting their passage through its territory — in an effort to pressure the U.S. government.

The situation is complicated by the arrival of hundreds of Cuban migrants in Panama and the announcement by U.S authorities that they have no intention of modifying either the Adjustment Act or their immigration policy. The Cuban government has not given up and, by putting pressure on other governments in the region, has succeeded in preventing the authorized flow of migrants toward their ultimate destination: the United States.

This has created a tense situation, both in Costa Rica as well as in Panama, where there are currently more than six-thousand stranded Cubans. The island’s authorities are acting as they have no direct responsibility for a situation in which they are in fact the party most responsible.

Though billed as a visit to discuss economic and political issues, the recent trip by the president of Costa Rica to Cuba was part of an effort to find a solution to the problem. Return of the migrants to their home country is not an option. Not only do they no longer have anything there, but they have no desire to return, as they have repeatedly made clear. This is perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the problem.

An objective analysis would indicate the chief beneficiary of this wave of emigration to in fact be the Cuban government. The departure of citizens who have no interest in being part of the socialist experiment relieves social pressure.

At the same time, more Cubans in the United States means more remittances to family members on the island, which ultimately end up in the hands of the state. This is a win-win for the government, even with the loss of dollars it would have received by renting out the services of its health care professionals, many of whom have themselves become emigres.

The policies of the island’s authorities are often difficult to understand.

14 December 2015

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