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On January 29, Major League Baseball pitcher Jose Contreras returned to Cuba for the first time since defecting to the United States a decade ago.  Changes to Cuba’s repressive travel policy went into effect earlier this month, allowing high-profile defectors like Contreras to go home.  The change also lifts the requirement for Cuban citizens to receive an exit visa before traveling abroad.  A passport and visa from your destination country should now suffice.


A significant test of Cuba’s new policy will be whether opponents of the Castro regime are free to travel as well—and to return without reprisal.  Dissidents like blogger Yoani Sanchez have repeatedly been denied the right to go abroad.  In case you missed it, I recommend a recent post from Sanchez’s Generacion Y blog in which she reflects on standing in line to apply for a new passport.  Here’s a short excerpt:


Even now, I will only believe I made it when I watch the plane lift off from inside.


It has been a long battle fought by many. A very long road of demanding that entering and leaving our country is an inalienable right, not a gift to be given. Although the flexibilizations in Decree-Law 302 are insufficient, not even these would have been achieved if we’d stood around with our arms crossed. They are not the fruit of a magnanimous gesture, but the result of systematic denunciations made against the absurdities of travel and immigration.


Hence my intention to continue “pushing the limits” of reform, to experience first hand how far the willingness to change really goes…


You can read Sanchez’s full post here.  To learn more about how brave Cubans are advocating for their fundamental freedoms, visit the Bush Center’s Freedom Collection.


Amanda Schnetzer is the Director of Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute