Dual Citizenship: Di Cuba Question

Vaz and wife after disqualifying decision

Fellow blogger, Francis Wade, raises an interesting point regarding the issue of dual citizenship question after the recent ruling by Judge McCalla about Darryl Vaz’s qualification to sit in parliament while being an American citizen that has pledged allegiance through his own act (renewing and traveling extensively his passport as an adult.)

Wade asks what would happen if Darryl Vaz needed to travel to Cuba on official business?  This is a great point, that I will seek to answer. Since I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the internet I will point out that I have been to Cuba legally while subject to US jurisdiction and did a tremendous amount of research prior to the trip.

The first thing to understand is that it is not illegal to travel to Cuba as such laws would likely be struck down as unconstitutional. What American citizens (and green-card holders) are prohibited from doing is spending money in Cuba. This is under the US Trading With the Enemy Act.

The law applies to:

All U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world.

Source: Office of Foreign Assets Control website

That being said, there are broad categories of people subject to US jurisdiction that have a general license (meaning exemption) to spend money in Cuba, up to certain limits. One such category is journalists. Another is “Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).

Here is where it gets tricky. The Organization of American States has in its membership both the USA and Jamaica. Cuba is also a member but has been suspended from “participation” since 1962.

Therefore if Darryl Vaz was traveling  overseas on official business to represent Jamaica’s membership in the OAS, it shouldn’t be an issue. Again, I-man is not a lawyer, but the links are there for anyone to check for themselves. Since I am not a lawyer I am uncertain the steps that need to be taken to comply with this section of the law. Is it enough for Vaz to have an OAS related Jamaican title? What if he undertook the trip to prepare a report for publication at a future OAS meeting? Whatever the extra hoops are, there are categories available for Vaz to travel to Cuba and not face prison or penalty.

One last point. There used to be a general license for  US persons to travel to Cuba under what was called a fully-hosted visit. Which meant that if you had the opportunity to visit Cuba; and a third party that was not the Cuban government or a specially designated national (of Cuba) paid for the travel transaction; as long as that third party was not subject to the trade restrictions all was well. It had to be a genuine transaction, you couldn’t reimburse later or prior to the trip, etc. The costs had to be legitimately handled by a person/entity not subject to the embargo.

In 2004, as he approached his re-election campaign, G.W. Bush made some changes via Executive Order that did away with that exemption to capitulate to hardline Cuban-exiles in FL. Like many lay-people in America, I think this prohibition is unconstitutional as it infringes on the first-amendment freedom of association. If Vaz wanted to be a hero, he could visit Cuba on a trip fully hosted by the Government of Jamaica and then challenge this new part of the law if he faced prosecution. 

The US embargo against Cuba is a FAILURE. I am proud of PM Golding’s stance on the issue. And the US Ambassador to Jamaica should have been given a warm time by our media for her recent editorial Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People which was published uncritically in both the Gleaner and Observer. There were no questions raised about how we do business with China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia while taking the high road on trade with Cuba. Only the Cuban Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaire saw fit to comment.

Lawks, fi wi media have nuff wuk fi mek up.


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