Government Policies Ignore Cuban Emigrant Rights / Laritza Diversent

Marta Lopez has wanted to emigrate to the United States of American for some years now. She signed up for the 1998 American visa drawing, but was not lucky. In 2001, her mother went to visit in the United States and stayed. The monthly remittance she sent Marta allowed her to build her house. Exit from the country was no longer her only option.

Nonetheless, her mother — after becoming an American citizen — insists on claiming her. Mrs. Lopez did not resign herself to losing everything: time, sweat, and money invested in building her house and her mother’s sacrifice, who at age 75 was working in a foreign country just to help her.

Hopes resurged for Marta after reading the planned guidelines for economic and social policy, expected to be adopted at the 6th congress of the Cuban Communist Party, in April of next year. According to point 278, the government will apply flexible formulas for the exchange, purchase, sales, and leasing of housing.

The government clarified that the guidelines only deal with the economy, but it is impossible to separate that from the issue of human rights on the island, principally relations with the island’s emigrants.

Despite the fact that the government made a list of the policy guidelines for the next five years, no one will explain how they will be applied and how far they will reach. Nevertheless, they are raising expectations among a good part of the citizenry, principally that which has plans to emigrate, with respect to the possibility of selling their houses, until now a legally prohibited act in the country.

Marta wonders if they will eliminate the administrative sanction of the confiscation of goods for those who decide to emigrate. Principally, the rules that impede those who wish to permanently leave the country of disposing freely of their goods, including their housing.

The Cuban State, which, last June was elected vice president of the United Nations’ Council on Human Rights, from the beginning of the decade of the 1960s has restricted its citizens’ freedom of movement, by means of requiring permission to enter and exit the country. It also enacted legal dispositions which impede emigrants from keeping their property on the island.

Law 989 of December 6, 1961 — in effect in the legal system — establishes the measures to take against furniture or buildings or any other possessions of value, etc, of those who unforgivably and with disdain abandon the national territory. The regulation nationalizes the goods of emigrants by means of confiscation — without right to indemnification — as if leaving the country were a crime.

The Ministers of the Interior, and of Justice and the National Housing Institute synchronise maneuvers to prevent people who aspire to emigrate from evading the confiscating actions of law 989. They do not authorize the person’s exit from the country until the goods of their emigrating owners belong to the State.

These regulations also affect the ability to dispose of personal property and regulations on family rights. The authorities declare donations and exchanges of housing units null when, within 4 years from having authorized the act, one of those involved asks for permanent exit from the country.

If the emigrant is married, the State liquidates the community property so that the part belonging to the one leaving can be confiscated. Nonetheless, the Family Code in effect since 1975 does not recognize permanent exit from the country as a cause for extinguishing the joint nature of property between married persons.

None of these subjects are dealt with in the guidelines of governmental policy, however,

The possibilities for changes in this approach are few, however, since the elimination of these provisions would mean a net revenue loss to the State. Marta Lopez also knows this, but she hasn’t lost hope.

December 29 2010