President Lobo is threatening to deny naturalized Hondurans their citizenship if they oppose him. He is twisting the Honduran Constitution to do this. According to this Proceso Digital article, he has 5 “foreigners” on the chopping block. He is quoted as saying:
“…todos ustedes saben que hay ciertas personas que son naturalizadas que no pueden tener una participación política”.
“Tenemos unos cinco allí en línea, la ley es para todo, la ley es para aplicarla a cualquiera que la violente”
Translation: “…all of you know that there are certain people that are naturalized that cannot have a political participation. We have about five of them in line, the law is for everything, that law is to be applied to anyone who violates it.”
This is the article he is citing, which on the surface looks reasonable:
“ARTICLE 32: Foreigners cannot perform in the country international or national political activities, or they will be sanctioned in accordance to the law.”
Granted, I am no constitutional lawyer, but there are only a few articles in the Honduran constitution that deal with naturalized Honduran citizens, and they are not difficult to interpret. I wish to show why Lobo is not entitled to use this article to strip naturalized Hondurans of their citizenship.
How to become a naturalized Honduran
Article 22 of our Constitution states that Honduran nationality can be obtained by birth and naturalization. Article 24 says that by residing in Honduras, Central Americans can becomes naturalized citizens after 1 year, Spaniards and Portuguese after 2, and the rest after 3. Also, if someone receives an honorary citizenship decreed by congress for “extraordinary services” to Honduras.
Article 24 also states that any one who marries a Honduran is automatically a naturalized citizen. If the country of birth permits dual citizenship, they do not have to renounce the citizenship of their birth country; but if a dual citizenship treaty does not exist, the prospective citizen must renounce their earlier citizenship before accepting Honduran citizenship.
Articles 28 deals with how Honduran citizenship can be lost. It can be lost by naturalization to another country, and by a cancelation of the “letter of naturalization”.
The articles Lobo is misunderstanding
Chapter 2 of the Constitution deals with foreigners living in Honduras, not naturalized citizens. In it, article 30 states that they are obligated to respect authorities and obey laws. Article 31 is very important: “Foreigners enjoy the same civil rights as Hondurans with the restrictions that the law establishes for qualified reasons of public order, security, interest or social convenience. Foreigners are also subject to the same ordinary and extraordinary obligations that generally obligate Hondurans, according to the law.”
The article Lobo is citing doesn’t apply to Alvarez as he is no longer a foreigner, but a naturalized citizen. Article 32 states: “FOREIGNERS cannot perform in the country international or national political activities, or they will be sanctioned in accordance to the law.” (Emphasis mine) Federico Alvarez is no longer a foreigner.
Lobo has spoken very strongly against Alvarez in the past. He implied that he was involved in a coup attempt to remove him from office, as this June 9 Fox News article states.
If Federico Alvarez were not a naturalized citizen, he would be breaking the law by being involved with the Democratic Civic Union, and more, its leader. But Alvarez is no longer a foreigner. Even if his original honorary citizenship were revoked, he has lived in Honduras for more than 3 years, thus, article 24 of the Constitution grants him citizenship. Even if he were just a foreigner, article 31 grants him the same civil rights as any Honduran, which includes free speech, as La Gringa stated a few days ago in her blog. As a naturalized citizen, he has every right to get involved in politics.
Mr. Alvarez could sue the government and win, using the constitution as his defense. I doubt, though, that he would get any judge to stick out their neck for him, and risk angering the president.
If President Lobo is starting to behave like Mel Zelaya, may God save Honduras.
Image by Martin Willms, used with a Creative Commons license