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Belize moves to close citizenship loopholes with new legislation

Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2023. 7:46 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: In a significant political move, the Briceno Administration has taken steps to abolish the Economic Citizenship Bill. This action came to light on Thursday as legislation aimed at preventing individuals from gaining nationality through association with someone who obtained Belizean citizenship economically was presented for its second reading. This forms part of an amendment to the Economic Citizenship Abolition of Rights Act, targeting to seal the loopholes in the system that have been exploited for nationality acquisition.

Prime Minister John Briceno, who introduced the bill, underscored the urgency of addressing this issue. He explained the history and the problems associated with economic citizenship in Belize. Despite previous efforts to abolish this system, such as the amendments in 2001 and 2014, loopholes remained, allowing descendants and spouses of economic citizens to claim Belizean nationality. Briceno emphasized the need to close these loopholes, which counteracted the intentions of past legislative efforts.

The original legislation, introduced in 1985, was designed to allow individuals to invest substantial monetary funds in Belize in exchange for citizenship. Patrick Faber, Area Representative for the UDP Collet, defended the original intent of the program, arguing that it was meant to be a controlled and beneficial system. He pointed out that the problems arose not from the concept of economic citizenship itself but from its mismanagement and exploitation by subsequent governments.

Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde responded to Faber’s remarks by emphasizing the need to rectify past mistakes and prevent the misuse of the economic citizenship program. He criticized the program as an affront to the values of Belizeans and highlighted the urgent need to end the ongoing consequences of the program, which he argued was initially transactional and not intended to extend citizenship rights to descendants.

The bill, which aims to rectify these long-standing issues and redefine the parameters of Belizean citizenship, is slated for its third reading in the next house sitting. This development marks a significant step by the current government in reshaping how Belizean nationality is defined and protected, moving away from transactional citizenship models towards a more controlled and ethical system.

 

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