Cuba

If your parents are Cuban, you may be eligible for citizenship — but there’s a catch

The children of Cubans living abroad will be able to apply for and obtain Cuban citizenship starting this week, without the need to live on the island for any length of time. In this June 12, 2016 photo, Cuban American Miranda Hernandez, center, talks with other youth who traveled with CubaOne program in Havana, Cuba.
The children of Cubans living abroad will be able to apply for and obtain Cuban citizenship starting this week, without the need to live on the island for any length of time. In this June 12, 2016 photo, Cuban American Miranda Hernandez, center, talks with other youth who traveled with CubaOne program in Havana, Cuba. AP

The children of Cubans living abroad will be able to apply for and obtain Cuban citizenship starting this week, without the need to live on the island for any length of time.

But the government will approve or reject the applicants based on political criteria.

Among the requirements: the parents cannot have committed any counterrevolutionary acts, and some applicants must pass an exam on Cuba’s political system and “national happenings.”

That indicates that they will have to be familiar with news reports by government-controlled media such as Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party.

“When the applicants, the parents or legal representatives of minors … have committed acts or carried out actions against the political, social and economic pillars of the Cuban government, the applications will be put on file and the applicants will be notified,” said a decree published in the last Official Gazette of 2017.

Those minors will have to wait until they reach the age of maturity to apply for citizenship, added the decree.

The decree does not define those “acts” or “actions.” The Cuban embassy in Washington did not respond to el Nuevo Herald requests for comment.

An initial rejection of the application may be appealed to the Ministry of the Interior, but its decision will be final.

Cuban state media highlighted that the measure benefits those born in countries that do not grant citizenship to the children of foreigners born there.

The decree also announced the creation of a new citizenship exam for applicants who were born abroad to parents who were not born on the island but later obtained Cuban citizenship.

The exam, written by the ministries of the Interior and Higher Education, will test the applicants’ knowledge of Spanish, but also of “constitutional regulations on the political, administrative and social organization of the country; the national symbols; the rights and duties of citizens; the history and principal leaders; the country’s geography; and general knowledge of national happenings.”

That means, for example, that U.S.-born Cuban Americans will have to become familiar with the island’s political organizations, the socialist constitution and news reports published in official news outlets like Granma if they want to pass the exam.

Those applicants must also prove “permanent links and stable relations with the country during a minimum period of two (2) years before submitting the application,” the decree added.

Those and other measures facilitating the return of Cubans who live abroad were announced in November by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez in reply to Trump administration changes that made travel to and from the island more difficult.

“As the United States closes, Cuba opens,” Rodríguez declared at the time.

The Raúl Castro government has been easing restrictions on travel abroad since 2013. But it retains the final vote on who can enter and leave the country.

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, based in Spain, documented 93 cases of opposition activists who were denied permission to travel abroad in 2017.

The new measures also maintain the punishment for Cubans, such as doctors, sports figures, university professors and government officials, who travel abroad on government “missions” and do not return on time.

“In those cases,” the official Cubadebate site noted, “the ban on returning to the country within eight years after abandoning the missions remains in place.”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

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