HAVANA -- The Spanish consulate here received 20,000 citizenship applications from Cubans in the first month after the so-called "grandchildren's law" went 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 of the Law of Historical Memory, which entered into force on Dec. 29.
The measure confers eligibility for Spanish citizenship on children and grandchildren of Spaniards forced into exile between 1936, the first year of the civil war that resulted in the installation of Franco's dictatorship, and December 1955.
Norberto Luis Diaz Reyes, a 38-year-old doctor and the first Cuban to submit a citizenship application, has been Spanish for a week and could receive his passport in the next few days.
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.
He said the first month of the process, which began with huge lines of people forming outside the Spanish embassy, though the numbers have since fallen, has been a "good" one.
Between late December and late January, the consulate attended to around 2,500 cases.
On the negative side, he said there have been some problems with the computer platform and others related to the need to increase the "logistical capacity" to meet the demand. Kirkpatrick estimates there will be a total of some 300,000 or 400,000 petitions, though he acknowledges no reliable study has yet been conducted.
"Our estimate continues to be 300,000 or 400,000 and we expect some 150,000 new Spaniards through the end of 2010," the deadline for applicants to submit the documentation, Kirkpatrick said. That date could be extended "if that's what Spain's council of ministers decides."
"At the moment, it's in the very early stages," he said, adding that the consulate is attending to 90 cases a day related to this law, but should be prepared to attend to 325 cases daily beginning in March. EFE