June 12, 2015
Promise of honorary citizenship a political tactic – Avila

The promise of honorary citizenship to Garifuna people in the diaspora is nothing more than a political tactic.

So says the president of the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Jose Francisco Avila.{{more}}

During a recent town hall meeting at Friends of Crown Heights in New York, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace announced that once the New Democratic Party is voted into power, all Garifuna in the diaspora will be granted honorary citizenship.

However, during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, Avila expressed his disagreement with the offer and offered several reasons why he does not support the notion.

“I’ve looked it up and honestly, I still don’t understand what it means. I do not understand what benefits it will offer,” he said.

“For someone in a town hall meeting [to] say, I’m going to grant this. To me, that doesn’t mean anything because I know that it’s a process and anybody can promise anything. Am I excited about it, am I thrilled? No. Am I impressed by it? No. I see it as nothing more than a political tactic.”

As an active member of the Garifuna community in the USA, Avila declared that the majority of the Garifuna population in the United States, which is recorded to be over 200,000, are not aware of the conversation about honorary citizenship taking place.Moreover, the Garifuna leader said that he knows for a fact that the Opposition Leader has not had a conversation with the Central American Garifuna leader, Celeo Alvares Casildo.

According to Avila, a similar question was posed at a town hall meeting in 2001, to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, but at that time, the person asking was asking whether the Government would consider granting dual citizenship to Garifuna in the diaspora.

“The Prime Minister said…that’s an interesting proposition; we’ll need to discuss it further. I was sitting in the front row and I know for a fact, he made no promises whatsoever,” he said, while using an example to highlight that such a notion requires much discussion and lengthy processes.

“I was born in Honduras. I had to live in America for five years before I could even apply for citizenship. And when I became a citizen over 40 years ago, I lost my Honduran citizenship, because there was no such thing as dual citizenship. Fast forward to 2001, Honduras realizes that wow, remittances represent 25 per cent of the gross domestic product. What if people had access to do that? They decided to grant dual citizenship, which is how I regained my Honduran citizenship.”

The Garifuna leader told SEARCHLIGHT that his research indicates that only seven honorary citizenships have been granted in the large country of the USA and expressed disbelief in St Vincent and the Grenadines’ ability to grant citizenship to over 200,000 Garifuna in the USA and to those living in Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and other countries where they reside.(BK)