Simple Problem, Straightforward Solution
The problem that the Ecuadorian authorities have with Cubans lies not with the marriages of convenience between citizens of both states. The problem arises from the entry and exit permit imposed by the island government and in its treatment of its emigrants.
Normally, for Cubans to travel abroad for their own purposes, they need a visa from the country they wish to “visit” and an exit permit issued by the Minister of the Interior. They also need a letter of invitation signed before a Notary Public by the person inviting them, legalized through consular channels.
Cubans “legally took advantage of the openness that we Ecuadorians have,” say that country’s authorities. But their public officials profited from the desperation of Cubans.
In 2007 the Cuban Foreign Ministry decided, by Resolution No. 87, that “an invitation extended to Cuban citizens residing in the country from relatives or friends living abroad, to travel abroad for personal reasons, shall be made by notarial act, duly authenticated in accordance with the laws of the country of issue, and presented to the local Cuban consulate.”
“Ethical standards” were violated because people needed the services of public officials in Ecuador. Notaries in South American countries are responsible for formalizing the written invitation to Cuban citizens, priced at 400-600 dollars in the informal market. They also validated the affidavits that are then used to obtain the certificate of citizenship of that country.
Early last April, Ecuadorian authorities exposed an alleged network of corruption that facilitated the illegal nationalization of Cubans in Ecuador. A secretary of foreign affairs and two notaries were implicated for not verifying the entry and exit information of Cubans who entered into marriage, and for issuing fraudulent documents.
Why a hasty marriage?
Ecuadorian officials also recognize that the Cubans meet the legal requirements for leaving Cuba and entering Ecuador, and that most return to the island. This means that the islanders did not intend to settle permanently in that country. But several questions arise: Why do they need to hastily marry in this country?
After legalizing their status in Ecuador, Cubans apply to the Cuban immigration authorities for a Permit to Reside Abroad (PRE). Citizens who have married foreigners are granted authorization to settle abroad indefinitely.
The process allows them to enter the island whenever they want without having to seek permission for entry, plus the chance to stay in the country for 12 consecutive months without losing this status, and to return permanently to the island when they decide to abandon the PRE.
The government’s response to a request for PRE may take up to six months, and permission to leave the country for personal purposes is granted for a period of up to three months. Both procedures should be performed within the first four months after arrival in Ecuador. While awaiting approval of the application for the PRE, the Cuban citizen requests an extension of stay abroad until the date of notification of approval.
Cubans who do not return to the island within the stipulated time are subject to the Cuban authorities applying the provisions of Law No. 989 of December 5, 1961. That law imposes the confiscation of property and the permanent abandonment of the country.
The problem is simple: Islanders travel to the South American country because it simplifies procedures for travel. Marriage allows them to evade the need for permission to leave or return to the island whenever they want, without losing their property. The solution is within the hands of the Cuban government: eliminate travel restrictions. Even better, respect the freedom of movement of its citizens.
Translated by: Tomás A.