Panama began granting the tourism card that allows Cubans to stay 30 days in that territory to make purchases, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced today in Havana, who said he maintains "total communication" with the Cuban government.
"It started yesterday (the process) and the first cards were given, because it is simply that any Cuban citizen who has traveled abroad and has a passport already has access to the card," the president explained after inaugurating the pavilion of his country at the International Fair of Havana, Fihav 2018.
The new card, created by the Central American country to promote shopping tourism, can be acquired at a price of 20 dollars at the Panamanian consulate in Havana.
Varela, who is on the second day of his official visit to the island, insisted that the new simplified migration process "will strengthen the economic opening of Cuba," always "following and respecting the rules" of the country.
Asked about the reaction of the Cuban government, Varela said that during Monday's meeting with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel he perceived "total communication."
"This is an important step that Panama took and there will be a total communication to ensure that the objective of the decree fulfills its purpose, which is to promote tourism and exchange between both countries and that it is not used for anything else," he said.
Panama, along with Costa Rica, was one of the most affected countries during the migration crisis that occurred at the end of 2015, when the closure of the Nicaraguan border left thousands of Cubans trying to reach the United States stranded in Central America.
The Panamanian government announced last week the creation of a "shopping card" that will allow travel and stay for 30 calendar days to Cuban citizens "who intend to travel to Panama or come to do shopping tourism," said the National Service of Migration of the Central American nation.
Cubans who have previously purchased a Panama-Cuba round trip air ticket may opt for this procedure; who have a self-employed worker's license; that they have a certificate of creators (artisans), or that they have previously traveled to Panama or to a third country, in accordance with official regulations.
"Cuba has become an important market for the Colon Free Zone, and in recent years we have had a progressive increase of over 20%, so from now on we have very high expectations, even up to 50%" , the secretary general of the Zone, Luis Carlos Saénz, predicted.
Saénz recalled that in 2017 more than 40,000 Cubans visited the Colon Free Zone, considered the largest free trade zone in the Americas, and assured that the simplification of travel procedures has been very well received, both on their part and on the part of Cubans.