Leaving Cuba, a Crime?


The Cuban emigrant is perhaps the only one who loses all rights as a citizen in his homeland. The government implements legal provisions that prevent emigrants from retaining their properties.

Law 989 of December 5, 1961, still in force in the legal system, establishes the measures to take regarding personal property, real property, or anything else of value, etc., against those who, with unforgivable contempt, leave the national territory.

This rule nationalizes the assets of emigrants through confiscation, without the right of compensation. However, the Constitution of the Republic of 1976, amended in 1992, provides in Article 60, that the forfeiture of property may only be used as a punishment by the authorities in those cases and proceedings determined by law.

They may confiscate when a law or regulation gives an official the power to impose the penalty of deprivation of property against citizens who violate its precepts. It is obvious: there is a violation of established law. It may then be asked, is leaving Cuba a crime?

The Cuban government, in its report for the periodic universal examination by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, states that the 1976 Constitution embodies the defense of human rights. However, there is no mention of Law 989, which punishes emigrants with confiscation of property and income.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in paragraph 2, provides that: Every person has the right to leave any country, including his own. The second paragraph of Article 17 establishes that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

None of these rights are recognized or guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic. As evidenced by the fact that the government confiscates all assets and income of those who emigrate. As if leaving Cuba were a crime.

Laritza Diversent

Photo: Havana.  Cubans trying to leave the country after the United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba on March 3, 1961. Paul Schutzer, Life.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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