There are, however, a few reasons to retain a healthy skepticism even while celebrating the changes. Cuba will continue to maintain its authority to deny exit to doctors, engineers, and others whose permanent departure raises fears of brain drain as well as those who might pose a security threat. There is also concern that Cuba will simply shift to denying passports as a way of controlling travel, especially travel by dissidents. Another reason to be skeptical is that Cuba has historically used open emigration as a safety valve allowing dissidents to leave but not return thus consolidating support for the regime on the island. After the revolution supporters of the old regime and members of the upper classes were allowed and encouraged to leave Cuba as a way of eliminating a potential base for counterrevolution. Outside of Cuba, population transfers have often functioned as a way of consolidating state power.
Despite these concerns, the reform comes after a series of other reforms and alongside promises of further reform. Even if the reforms are not as extensive as human rights advocates might desire, they appear to be part of a trend of greater openness. The extension of the allowed time outside of the country also suggests that Cuba is not seeking to shed its dissident population. Moreover, Cuba’s fears of losing human capital make such a tactic unlikely. There is great cause for hope. Even so, it is worth remembering that the legal machinery still exists with which the Cuban government could turn this reform into another means of control. Human rights advocates and those who hope for a more open Cuba will need to keep an eye on how the reforms are implemented to ensure that they are not being used to conceal and further entrench dictatorship.