Cubans welcome easing of exit visa requirement
HAVANA - 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 of Florida -- says Castro is trying to "fool the world into thinking that Cuba is changing."