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Cuba immigration proposal seeks to lure foreign investors and keep critics at bay

Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

A new proposed Cuban law would grant permanent residence to foreigners ready to invest in state or private enterprises and special immigration status to Cubans living in the United States and other countries with businesses on the island, a move suggesting the government may be getting ready to open its emerging private sector to foreign investment.

At the same time, the draft of the law, published this week by the National Assembly, would allow authorities to continue using travel bans to punish critics on the island and abroad.

Current laws generally prohibit Cubans living abroad and foreign investors from legally owning or investing in the small and medium private enterprises that have mushroomed nationwide since they were first authorized in 2021.

However, many Cubans abroad have done so anyway through informal channels, using relatives and friends. The current laws must also be modified to implement the changes teased in the immigration proposal.

The extent of the immigration benefits for investors is unclear because the draft text leaves key details to be regulated later by the government. The law proposal is expected to be voted on by the National Assembly in July.

The draft document offers permanent residence to foreigners “who prove they have assets to use for the purposes of undertaking businesses or making investments in projects or priorities for the country’s development or that may be linked to state or private economic sectors.”

It also proposes creating a new “business” or “investor” migration status for Cubans who live permanently abroad but “participate in the Cuban economic model according to... the law.” The text, however, does not describe the rights associated with such a status nor how to acquire it.

The new status seems designed to offer a “privilege, an incentive to Cubans living abroad and who want to invest in Cuba,” said Eloy Viera Cañive, a Cuban lawyer who contributes to the Cuban news outlet El Toque. “This is also flirting with the Biden administration’s decision to allow investments in (Cuba’s) private sector.”

The decades-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba is still in place, but the Biden administration has recently eased some restrictions to help the private sector. It has also issued at least two licenses to authorize Americans to invest in a private enterprise in Cuba — to John Kavulich, the head of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, and to former Miami Congressman Joe García.

Despite the island’s growing economic problems, two years have passed since the first authorization of private enterprises on the island and the Cuban government has yet to allow foreign investment in the private sector.

 

But experts note that the proposal, already green-lighted by the country’s Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Interior, has done little to address much of what many Cuban Americans have been advocating for many years.

It has quickly received criticism from human-rights activists because it will give Cuban authorities ample leeway to continue banning Cubans from entering or leaving the country due to their political opinions, citing “national security and public order.” The proposal also maintains travel restrictions on doctors and other professionals in Cuba, citing the need to protect the workforce.

Cuban authorities would also deny entry to foreign visitors who have “promoted” or been involved in “hostile actions acts against the political, economic and social foundations of the Cuban state.” The text also does not define how authorities define “promotion” or “hostile action,” but the country’s laws punish people for publishing criticism of the government on social media.

There was an expectation that the Cuban government would allow Cubans with citizenship in the U.S. and elsewhere to enter the country with passports other than Cuban. (Current law mandates Cubans born on the island to use a Cuban passport to enter the country, even if they are citizens of another country.) That would allow Cuban Americans to be considered U.S. citizens while on the island and receive services from the U.S Embassy in Havana.

However, the proposal contemplates that possibility only if a Cuban national legally renounces his or her citizenship under procedures that will be included in a future citizenship law that has not been published.

A senior Interior Ministry said Thursday on state television that Cubans abroad who want to visit the island must do so with their Cuban passports and must abide by Cuban laws while in the country.

The ministry’s chief legal advisor, Lieu. Col. Raylan Hernández Concepción, said the country’s 2019 Constitution establishes that the island’s nationals maintain their Cuban citizenship even when they become citizens of other countries.

“It follows that while Cubans are in the national territory, they must act as Cuban citizens, they cannot exercise another citizenship,” he said. “From the moment a Cuban enters the country, he must identify himself with the Cuban passport, not with a passport from another country.”

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©2024 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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