The Miami Herald
Wed, Mar. 19, 2008

Cubans living abroad are invited to Havana


More than 100 Cubans living abroad, including some from Miami, will be in Havana Wednesday for a three-day meeting with Cuban officials, and some participants say Cuba's migration policy may be up for discussion.

The gathering comes on the heels of the fifth anniversary of Cuba's ''black spring,'' a crackdown on 75 dissidents, independent journalists and librarians. Fifty-five remain in Cuban prisons, and the Cuban government is not expected to address the issue of dissidents during the meeting -- a sore point for exiles and activists on the communist island.


Although Miami participants have not publicly acknowledged invitations to the Havana conference, at least two controversial South Florida Cuban-American broadcasters, Francisco Aruca and Max Lesnik, said they were traveling to Cuba to cover the event.

Aruca and Lesnik said they expect the meeting to deal with a hot topic on both sides of the Florida Straits: Cuban migration.

''The meeting is expected to involve an exchange, opinions from Cubans living abroad, and the views of Cuban officials as what to do toward the future,'' said Lesnik.

There's speculation among Cuba experts in South Florida that the government could use the meeting to announce new measures related to emigration.

One of the measures, Aruca and Lesnik said, might be the elimination of exit permits that Cubans are required to obtain before they can travel abroad legally.

Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, said that if indeed Cuba announces the elimination of exit permits, it may be a tactical move to attempt to put the United States on the defensive.

''The government may relax some of the requirements for Cubans to travel abroad and then throw it in the lap of the Americans, make it an American problem if they don't let them into the United States,'' said Suchlicki. ``It's a way for Cuba to use this as pressure on the United States.''


Exit permits are issued to Cubans who have visas from foreign countries to visit or legally stay. Without exit permits, Cubans cannot legally leave their country -- even if they have secured a foreign visa.

The exit permit requirement is galling for talented young artists and athletes who want to expand their horizons abroad.

Cubans who don't have exit permits or visas often leave by boat and, if not intercepted by the Coast Guard, can stay in the United States under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act.