The Cradle of Illegality / Laritza Diversent

Cop with gun: I caught him in the park. He's undocumented and he refuses to speak. Second cop: Come to the police station.

It would occur to few people to think that a Frenchman might be illegal in Paris, or an Englishman in London. But the efficient agents of the National Revolutionary Police don’t hesitate to detain someone from Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas, or Guantanamo, for being illegal in the City of Havana.

Cuban authorities consider a citizen illegal if he changes his place of residence for more than 30 days without putting in a change of address and registering it in the Registrar of Addresses. If this person is found in the capital and is from another territory in the country things get complicated.

The punishment is severe: A fine of 30o pesos if the president of the municipal government where lives doesn’t recognize the right, or of 200 he’s recognized but not officially entered in the corresponding office of Identity Cards.

Then follows arrest and ultimately deportation to his place of origin. The penalty is the same for those who remain in the capital after losing their temporary residence authorization issued by the Registrar of Addresses.

This is ordered by Decree-Law 217 of 22 april 1997, which establishes “Internal Migration Regulations for the City of Havana. A provision to ensure Habaneros’ right to hygiene, prohibits Cubans from other territories in the country from residing permanently in the capital without authorization.

However, it is an internationally recognized principle that no State can limit the rights of a group of those it governs, supposedly to guarantee the rights of others. Doesn’t everyone enjoy the same rights and aren’t we all equal before the law?

However, the decree issued by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers has been in effect for more than 13 years. More than 25 parliamentary sessions of the National Assembly have ignored the constitutionality of the illegal provision, which affects family relationships.

The authorities fine every person who lived in a house, located in the capital, without having the domicile recognized in the office of the Registrar of Addresses.

This provision also affects the powers of disposal of property under the law. The citizen needing to rent his property requires an opinion regarding compliance with this provision. The procedures imposed must be fulfilled by those who barter, acquire by inheritance, bequest, or donation a dwelling located in the capital, from their nuclear family.

Faced with these restrictions, Cubans lack measures to defend their rights in court. No court on the Island has the power to sanction a legal rule of the legal system, as unconstitutional.

This is the exclusive preserve of the National Assembly, which, up to now, has done nothing faced with the violation of a right which implies the violations of others.

January 14 2011