Cuba's new immigration measures were announced first in Washington, to Cubans living abroad, as if it were an election campaign in which the regime was competing with the US government.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez concluded the Fourth Forum for Cuban Residents in Exile, seizing the occasion to draw a comparison with US policy: the Government represented by him is advancing, he said, while the US Government is retreating.
Now that the island's citizens need to travel to Colombia to apply for a US visa, Havana's new measures mean that Cubans residing abroad no longer need to "habilitate" their passports, and they can now arrive in their homeland on recreational vessels. In addition, some who had been prohibited from entering the country now can (others are still barred). And the measures also facilitate the nationalization of children born outside of Cuba.
Cuban migration policy is dictated, not by the rights and needs of citizens on and off the island, but rather by the room to maneuver that the US gives a regime that tramples on its people's liberties. These and more "updated" immigration policies could have constituted the official response to the restoration of relations that occurred under the Obama Administration. However, the response of Raúl Castro's regime at that time was as paltry as possible. Believing in the advantages that the new policy ensured him, he set about frustrating reform.
It matters little to the authorities in Havana that Cubans have to travel far in pursuit of a US visa. Now, while Washington is imposing more difficult immigration procedures on people from the Island, Cuban authorities are facilitating emigrants' return, because this move could work as part of a propaganda campaign (in a few days another vote will be held at the UN against the embargo) and help to alleviate the drop in American tourism, essential to the national economy.
It is paradoxical that it is the tougher terms enacted by President Trump that are going to open Cuban ports up to emigrants' vessels, and reduce the red tape faced by those returning to the country.
Was Obama wrong, then? The question begs for an answer.
The discussion about what kind of US policy might bring about more positive changes in Cuban society is extensive, and will continue to be an open one. Whatever the opinion that one advances, it is undeniable that we Cubans, whether on the island, as well as those meeting in Washington with Foreign Minister Rodriguez, and those who would not agree to meet with this representative, are merely pawns used by the regime in its tedious confrontation with the US.
We are little more than diplomatic cannon fodder, as the reforms announced are extremely timid, and many rights still must be recovered.