New Law Would Open the Door to Losing Cuban Citizenship

Photo: El Toque

By Eloy Viera Cañive (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The Havana authorities have disclosed the contents of an upcoming bill for a “Citizenship Law” that would allow Cubans to acquire or renounce their citizenship.

However, the same bill, once passed, will also grant the Cuban authorities – specifically the president – the power to unilaterally cancel the citizenship of those Cubans residing outside the country, if they engage in “acts that go against the high political, social and economic interests of the Cuban Republic.”

The bill also empowers the president to revoke the citizenship of any Cuban who participates, “in any kind of armed organization, with the objective of threatening the territorial integrity of the Cuban State, its citizens, and other people residing in the country.”

The measure responds to a timeworn yearning on the part of the Cuban bureaucracy. In practice, these government authorities have for a long-time treated hundreds of citizens who oppose the Communist Party regime as “non-Cubans,” although without legal basis up until now.  This bill would codify as law the historic tendency of the authorities and their propaganda of classifying and treating political opponents, activists, and independent journalists the government considers “traitors,” as “stateless,” “anti-Cuban,” and “people who should never have been born.”   

The measure justifies the president’s power to strip any Cuban of their citizenship under the argument of protecting the interests of the “State” and the “Republic.’ In the real Cuba, however, the State is considered synonymous with the political force that the country’s “president” directs – the Communist Party.  The “Republic” as such, doesn’t exist, because in Cuba we have a totalitarian regime that doesn’t correspond to the logic of independent institutions.

Nonetheless, this bill – which many Cubans have been expecting for a long time – can also be interpreted as inspired by the repressive initiatives of some of the region’s other authoritarian governments.

The Cuban bill reflects Nicaragua’s Law #1 190, which reformed Article 21 of that country’s Constitution, and declares that “traitors to the nation” would lose their status as “Nicaraguan nationals.” Although the law was only formalized through its publication in Nicaragua’s Official Gazette in January 2024, the government began applying it in February 2023, when the Ortega-Murillo Dictatorship, arbitrarily stripped 222 political prisoners of their nationality, while releasing from jail and banishing them from the country and confiscating their properties.

In order to do this, the Ortega regime relied on a ruling from the Court that, among other things, reproduced a formula similar to the one this bill employs to justify the cancellation of citizenship. At that time, the Nicaraguan judge ruled that the decision was being applied because those banished had harmed “the supreme interests of the nation, as established in the legal system, and the international human rights accords and treaties, altering the nation’s peace, security and Constitutional order.”

Following that ruling, the Ortega regime employed an identical formula to strip another 94 political opponents, intellectuals, and media company directors of their citizens’ rights.

Given the Nicaraguan precedent, it could be expected that once this Cuban initiative becomes law it will be employed to support the right of the president to strip Cuban citizenship from all those considered “enemies.”

The bill also allows for the privation of citizenship to be carried out unilaterally, via a presidential decree. The only established mechanism for contesting such a decision would be an appeal for reform, which in practical terms means that the affected party’s only recourse would be petitioning the Cuban “president” for clemency, in an attempt to have him reconsider his decision.

Although the bill appears to establish some limits for the privation of citizenship, it also offers vague formulas that can be easily bypassed. For example, it establishes that citizenship can only be revoked when the justification for the privation can be confirmed “beyond all doubt.” Similarly, it establishes that the measure will only be applied to those who hold “other citizenship.”

At first reading, this provision appears to be designed to prevent those affected by the deprivation decision from being left “stateless,” without citizenship in any country. However, the draft also indicates that the revocation may be applied to those who “do not effectively reside in the country.” This implies that Cubans living abroad could be deprived of their Cuban citizenship, whether or not they possess another citizenship.

The bill also allows the president to bypass the filters in cases where “serious harm” to national security, State stability, international relations or public health is alleged. In such situations, the president could revoke a Cubans’ citizenship without complying with the requirements established in the law, proceeding without further formalities.

In Cuba, the Ministry of the Interior, especially the State Security organs, are the sole bodies that determine whether a person represents a risk to national security, the public interest, or constitutes a threat to the public order. By allowing those so classified to have their citizenship revoked with no further formalities, the law will not only legitimize the historic practice, but also open the possibility that Cuban citizens residing in the country could also be stripped of their citizenship.

Once declared non-citizens, resident Cubans would become foreigners, or “non-Cubans,” and could become the “legal” objects of deportation or expulsion from the country, as has occurred in Nicaragua.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

2 thoughts on “New Law Would Open the Door to Losing Cuban Citizenship

  • Same old same old. And in other news, why is it news that TRUMP has lied again. Ever since i heard the recording of him and a man in television joking about the women. I never liked him. But then, I am a dyed in the wool feminist from ten. I believe in burn the bra and at 14 wore no bra in the street and the man who daily hurled insults at me and my mother and sisters grabbed my arm. TENDERLY. I threw him off and went to the magistrates court to see justice in action, in case I wanted to be a lawyer. I met a judge. I told him i enjoyed Walter Mitty and he took me home. I also went to the foreign affaiers department, and I met a diplomat whose first degree was english. I thought I might have a go then. But its all treaties T Masters and I was hampered by reading material. Lots of tough Work.

  • constriction of rights reflects the repressive purpose of the Communist Party by exerting power and control. Marx/Lenin/Stalin ooze out of the ever increasing laws and regulations – like a suppurating boil!

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