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Cubans Line Up for Passports as Travel Reform Deadline Nears

January 10, 2013

With paperwork in their hands and dreams of faraway places in their heads, Cubans waited in long lines this week to apply for passports ahead of a major liberalization of travel policies in place for more than half a century.

Starting on Monday, most will be able to leave the country with just a passport and no need for much-hated exit visas and letters of invitation the communist government imposed in 1961 to slow a mass exodus of people fleeing after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro.

The reform was announced in October to address the near universal complaints by Cubans about the expensive and time-consuming paperwork requirements that purposely made it difficult to leave the island.

They were fodder for Castro opponents who charged the Cuban government was a brutal dictatorship that deprived its people of the right to travel and other freedoms….

"As with all things concerning reforms in Cuba, we will have to see," said Christopher Sabatini, policy director at the Americas Society in New York.

"The ugliest of the bars may have been lifted, but they've been replaced with a leash - people will only know how far they can go when they are yanked back," he told Reuters.

The bigger hindrances to travel for most Cubans will be the governments of other countries, not their own, and financial constraints....

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