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Why Are Emigrants Forced to Use Cuban Passports?

A political question? A business? Part of the obsession with control? In any case, it does not seem that the Government is willing to change its policy.

La Habana

Cubans cannot even harbor hopes," was Ricardito’s complaint as he waited his turn to process a visa application at the German Embassy.

The hope of this 25 year old, an Art History graduate, is to be a citizen of the world, although he says he would be content, for the moment, with having two citizenships: that of Cuba and Germany, where his older sister currently resides.

Like many other Cubans, on or off the Island, Ricardito had hoped that the revision of the Constitution would include changes to Article 32, according to which "dual citizenship is not allowed. Consequently, when foreign citizenship is acquired, Cuban citizenship is lost." In practice, however, what the Government does is not recognize foreign citizenship within its territory.

The first disappointment for Ricardito came from José Ramón Cabañas, the Cuban ambassador in Washington, who in June said that the Government would continue to observe the principle that "every Cuban, when he returns to Cuba, in our borders, is Cuban."

The advanced version of the preliminary draft of the new Constitution that deputies must approve this weekend, and was published a few days ago by the official press, confirmed that any changes regarding this issue will uphold the current practice.

In this regard, the document "aims to promote fidelity to the principle of effective citizenship, based on the premise that Cuban citizens, in national territory, are governed by that identity, and cannot make use of a foreign citizenship," stated the official daily Granma.

Those affected coincided in pointing to the political connotations of this procedure. Some claim that it violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Paragraph 2, Article 15 states that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality, or the right to change it."

"Why can't I have dual citizenship, or is a Cuban also a traitor when he acquires that status?" asks Damaris Córdoba, 32, who is in the process of applying for Colombian citizenship.

The obligation for those born in Cuba to obtain a Cuban passport in order to travel to the island entails a price beyond the political one. The figures vary by country, but in the United States, for example, the cost of a passport is some 450 dollars, with shipping costs included, and the obligation to renew it every two years carries an additional cost of 160 dollars.

Alain Michel Oropesa will travel to Argentina in the coming months to marry a young woman from Rosario who he met in Havana, and he hopes to obtain Argentine citizenship there. His plan was to return to Cuba with an Argentine passport and enjoy his own country, if only once, with the privileges of a foreigner.

"Nobody wants to lose their Cuban citizenship, out of patriotism, but those who live abroad do not even have that privilege [to enter with another passport] when they touch down in Cuba. These regulations do not even concede you that simple wish," says Oropesa.

According to Luz María, 30, a lawyer and former member of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), the requirement to obtain a national passport to enter Cuba is not a political issue, but rather a financial one, due to the revenue that it represents for the Government.

Cubans comply with this absurdity "for the family that they leave behind, and the Government exploits that," says Luz María, who plans to secure French citizenship.

A German national who settled 20 years ago in Frankfurt, Javier Gamboa Simón has only returned to the island once. He swore to himself that he would not return. He was even unable to attend his father's funeral.

"Traveling to Cuba is too expensive. It involves too much paperwork, too much stress, and the abuse you receive at the Cuban Embassy is too much. I've traveled to the United States and South Korea with far less than half the budget I would need to travel to Cuba," said Gamboa Simón, who allays his nostalgia by sending money to his family.

Not recognizing other citizenships of Cubans born on the island means refusing to recognize their protection by another nation within Cuban territory, several consulted also agreed.

"Maybe for the Government, this is tantamount to seeing its sovereignty threatened," speculated Patricia López, 32, who will soon travel to Italy to get married, and to get nationalized there. She has no plans to return soon.

In her opinion, "the Government seeks, in addition to the money, absolute control over all the emigrants scattered around the world. The obligation to enter with a Cuban passport is so that, if the case arises, they can subject you to Cuban law, as a Cuban national."

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