HAVANA (AP) — Cubans on the streets of Havana are expressing delight and astonishment over the government's decision to end its exit visa requirement.
For the first time in more than a half-century, Cubans who want to travel overseas will only need to show a passport and a visa from the country they want to visit -- and won't have to get Cuban government approval to leave.
It's the most significant advance this year in President Raul Castro's five-year plan of reforms. The plan has already seen the legalization of home and car sales, and a big increase in the number of Cubans owning private businesses.
Despite the change, there are still limits on travel by many Cubans. People can't get a passport or travel abroad without permission if they face criminal charges, if the trip affects national security or if the departure would affect efforts to keep qualified labor in Cuba.
One retiree in Havana said the change is "great" news. He said, "Citizens' rights are being restored."
But one prominent U.S. critic of the Cuban government -- Cuban-born congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (ih-lay-AH'-nah rahs LAY'-tih-nehn) of Florida -- says Castro is trying to "fool the world into thinking that Cuba is changing."
176-a-09-(Eddie Balzola (bal-ZOH'-lah), Cuban-American, at Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, in AP interview)-"in every country"-Cuban-American Eddie Balzola says any increase in Cuban freedom is positive. (16 Oct 2012)
<<CUT *176 (10/16/12)>> 00:09 "in every country"
178-a-12-(Ninoska Perez, Cuban hosts talk show on Cuban "Radio Mambi", in AP interview)-"that for Obama"-Ninoska Perez, who hosts a popular Cuban radio talk show, was asked if the move on Cuban exit visas is meant to to affect the U.S. presidential election. (16 Oct 2012)
<<CUT *178 (10/16/12)>> 00:12 "that for Obama"
GRAPHICSBANK: Cuban woman holds passports as she leaves an immigration office, Havana, Cuba, on texture with TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS lettering, finished graphic (16 Oct 2012)
APPHOTO XRE108: A man reads a Tuesday copy of the Communist Party newspaper Granma which published the new migratory policy that will no longer require islanders to apply for an exit visa on it's front page, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012. The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it will eliminate the bureaucratic procedure that has been a major impediment for many seeking to travel overseas for more than a half-century. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (16 Oct 2012)
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APPHOTO XRE107: People read adjustments to the migratory policy, posted on a wrought iron fence of an immigration office in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012. The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it will no longer require islanders to apply for an exit visa, eliminating a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has been a major impediment for many seeking to travel overseas for more than a half-century. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (16 Oct 2012)
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