Cubans jostle for Spanish citizenship

February 1st, 2009 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Havana, Feb 1 (EFE) Thousands of Cubans have shown interest in becoming Spanish citizens by taking advantage of a new “grandchildren’s law” that came into effect in Spain last December.The Spanish consulate in Havana has received applications from more than 20,000 people since the “Law of Historical Memory” came into effect in Spain Dec 29, 2008.

The new law gives an opportunity for getting Spanish nationality to the descendants of those who fled the country during the civil war between 1936 and 1939. It also gives a right of application to those whose grandparents fled the dictatorship of Franco, which lasted from 1939 until 1975.

The Spanish consulate here received 20,000 citizenship applications from Cubans in the first month after the so-called “grandchildren’s law” came into effect, and already has granted 40 of those requests.

“There were some 20,000 appointments requested during the first month, and those people will be attended to by the end of May or June,” Spanish Adjunct Consul Alvaro Kirkpatrick said, adding that 40 Cubans have already been granted citizenship.

Norberto Luis Diaz Reyes, a 38-year-old doctor, is the first Cuban to become a Spaniard under this new law.

Kirkpatrick said the consulate “has done everything possible to avoid” the skullduggery that has led some Cubans to pay intermediaries for forms that are available free of charge or to jump ahead of others on the appointment list.

“We’ve informed people how things are, that the forms are free and we even put on the form that it’s free,” he said.

The official said the consulate has so far attended around 2,500 cases.

“Our estimate continues to be 300,000 or 400,000 and we expect some 150,000 new Spaniards through the end of 2010,” Kirkpatrick said.

During the early part of Franco’s dictatorship, Spain went through a grim period of economic stagnation and mass emigration continued in the country from the end of the civil war until the 1960s.

Many of those who sought a new life in Latin America were forced to renounce their Spanish nationality in order to obtain the citizenship of their countries of adoption.

The new law is considered a part of several measures to compensate victims of the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship.

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