Raul Castro announced this week that the Cuban government will allow citizens of the island nation to travel abroad freely, as tourists, for the first time in 50 years. Although there was not a formal law keeping Cubans from traveling, they were forced to endure many bureaucratic obstacles, including a requirement of an invitation letter from a foreign country, in order to leave.
The new travel allowance is part of a wider sweep of reform that Raul announced in an effort to jump start the Cuban economy. Other reforms include: Cubans will now be allowed to buy and sell automobiles and homes, bank loans will become more accessible, and the creation of co-operatives and an allowance for these employee-owned businesses to directly sell products to consumers without state intervention. Castro also said that the state plans on converting many public buildings into residential housing units in an effort to address the housing shortage on the island.
Raul Castro effectively took power in Cuba in 2008, though Fidel Castro only announced last month that he would be formally resigning from his position as president, and since then has made incremental but significant shifts towards a free market economy in Cuba's socialist society.