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Cuban travel tide could inundate U.S.

April 18, 2008 | 10:39 am

The Spanish daily El Pais has given credence to rumors that have been sweeping Havana for days that Cuban authorities are about to lift requirements for their citizens to get exit visas to leave the Communist-ruled island. The newspaper quotes an unidentified senior Cuban official as saying Cubans soon will be free to travel without government permission.

In light of U.S. policy that allows most Cubans who reach dry land to stay in the country, revocation of Cuba's self-imposed barriers to travel could unleash a massive wave of immigrants headed for southern Florida if young workers eager for more opportunity decide to abandon their homeland.

Cuban President Raul Castro has invoked a number of popular moves in recent weeks making cellphones, computers, microwaves and seaside resorts available to Cubans who can afford them.

But in the absence of any structural change to the economy to allow more income-enhancing private enterprise, discontent with the status quo of poverty and pitiful wages could fuel a fresh migration wave -- and possibly inspire rethinking of U.S. policy on the island.

-- Carol J. Williams in Bridgetown, Barbados

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