With the Detention of Maiquel El Osorboa€, Do We Have Legal Certainty in Cuba? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 29 September 2018 — The District Attorney’s office in Havana Vieja is trying to revoke the decision taken 3 months ago by the police to fine the rapper Maiquel Castillo 1000 pesos. The rapper was violently arrested last 22nd June. They accused him of threatening the authorities when he filmed a house search in Cristo Park.

The law enforcement authorities have kept Maiquel Castillo, also known as “Maiquel El Osorbo”, locked up since 25th September 2018, to get back at him for joining the campaign against Decree 349. His case is evidence of the lack of legal certainty in Cuba.

The criminal law authorises the police to interpret it and apply it as if they were judges, in the nearly 27% of offences they deal with. These officers, instead of remitting the cases to a tribunal, judge them and apply fines. continue reading

What we do know is, if he accepts the imposition of a fine, he would be acknowledging his guilt (destroying his own presumption of innocence). The police do not take the trouble to declare that they “will refer the matter to the competent authorities (…)” only when the “offender requests it or does not pay the fine”.

Receipt for payment of a 1,000 peso fine.

Returning to the case of “Maiquel El Osorbo”, who paid the fine the same day that it was imposed, the law says “if the offender pays the fine (…) within 10 working days of its imposition, the matter will be considered as closed, and will not be recorded as an offence.”

Most people accept the fine, “doing an 8.3”, as it is commonly known, to get the matter finished with. The truth is that there is no difference between a judgement by a  policeman (who has hardly made it to the ninth grade) and a judge (law graduate), who is subject to all sorts of influence by State Security and the Ministry of the Interior. Anyway we all know how we will end up if we take it into our head to get the better of a policeman, and that nothing will come of it.

So we have to ask whether the tribunals and district attorneys should adhere to a decision taken by a policeman to impose a fine? And as and when they may be satisfied, whether this decision should have the same value as a definitive judicial sentence?

Or whether, on the contrary, can a policeman, district attorney or tribunal be at liberty to change their opinion, regarding a decision already taken, to revoke it, and consider an act to lack “social danger because of  its limited consequences and the social condition of the author of the act”?

For the crime of assault, there is an expected prison term of from one to three years. In such a case, the police should require the approval of the district attorney, as set out in the criminal code. Can the attorney’s office go against its own decisions?

Can a citizen have confidence that the observation of and respect for legal procedures will be maintained in every case, in accordance with the legal framework of the country? And, what happens if you are not of that view?

Translated by GH

Prior Censorship, Decree 349 and the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party / Cubalex

Cubalex, 11 September 2018 — Decree 349/2018 sets up a system of prior censorship of cultural and artistic activities and other forms of expression, violating the freedom to carry out creative activities and the right to develop the human personality. It also offends against freedom of thought, belief and religion: and the right to hold opinion, to associate and to peaceful assembly.

In the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party, there is recognised, among other things, in relation to all citizens (although not all persons) the right to education, to culture, and its comprehensive development. Every person has the right to participate in the cultural and artistic life of the country. Men and women have equal cultural rights and obligations. Citizens should protect the natural resources and the cultural and historical heritage of the country. continue reading

The state recognises that the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation are free, but affirms categorically that its content must respect the values of a socialist Cuban society. This statement is a tacit recognition that prior censorship will be employed to supervise the content of the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation.

According to the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Observation 21: The right of every person to participate in cultural life (Article 15 paragraph 1(a)), and also the other rights established in the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, imposes on the states three types or levels of obligation:

a) the obligation to respect;

b) the obligation to protect, and

c) the obligation to comply.

The obligation to respect requires the Cuban state to refrain from interfering, directly or indirectly, in the enjoyment of the right to participate in cultural life, which includes the creation, individually, or in association with others, or in a community or group, which implies that the state should abolish censorship of cultural activities imposed on the arts and other forms of expression. In other words, it is necessary to repeal Decree 349 and provide a constitutional project which may be supported by all of us.

(1) Art. 43 of the draft Constitutional bill

(2) Art. 45 section 1) of Article 91 of the draft Constitutional bill

(3) Section h) of the draft Constitutional bill

Translated by GH

Habeas Corpus Proposed in the Constitutional Reform is Ineffective / Cubalex

Habeas Corpus will be elevated to constitutional status

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent — Article 50 of the constitution, as proposed to the National Assembly by the Cuban Communist Party, will recognise Habeas Corpus. This guarantee against illegal arrest was the subject of parliamentary debate. The Deputy for Baracoa in Guantanamo province, Tamayo Mendez, made reference to this precept.

“Any person who is deprived of his liberty,” he read. “Here we are affirming that it was foreseen that someone may be illegally penalised,” he added. “No, not penalised, but illegally deprived of their liberty,” he was corrected by Deputy Jose Luis Toledo Santander, member of the constitutional editing commission. continue reading

“What is being addressed here is the protection of the right of an individual who is deprived of their liberty to due process as established by law. This process exists in the Law of Legal Procedures,” explained Toledo Santander.

Due process” for Habeas Corpus and the authorities’ practices

In effect, Habeas Corpus is regulated in domestic law, but offers no protection against arbitrary detention, nor against enforced disappearance.

For example, one of the “processes established by law” is that of denying Habeas Corpus, if, during the arrest, a “sentence of or order for a limited period of imprisonment” was decreed. Every year, the Cuban state and its agents undertake thousands of arbitrary detentions as a punishment for exercising freedom of expression, meeting and association. 

Additionally, it requires that “the place where the person is held be identified, as well as the official or his agent or the functionary who is holding him.” The government agents employ pseudonyms, wear plain clothes and do not identify themselves. As far as human rights defenders are concerned, they do not complete any detention paperwork, to isolate them and make it impossible to identify their location, opening the door to their enforced disappearance.

The tribunals limit themselves to verifying that the required procedural criminal documentation exists, and reject pleas for habeas corpus, without requiring the police officials to produce the person who has been detained and to explain when and why he was detained. It is unlikely they would agree to an applications for oral hearing.

Awarding constitutional status to a guarantee which does not comply with international standards does not constitute any advance in human rights, and is obviously ineffective.

M.sc. Laritza Diversent

Translated by GH

Decree #349 is "Against the Interests of Artists" / Cubalex

Cubalex, 23 August 2018 — According to Pedro Edgar Rizo Pena, in an article entitled “Demythologising Decree 349,” what the “activists against 349″ have not troubled themselves to analyse (perhaps due to lack of legal understanding, or not co-operating in reading and interpreting it) is that the decree promulgates the basis for the legal provisions which regulate self employment  in the country… that is to say, this fact destroys the argument that the decree acts against the interests of artists and their creative expression.”

I completely disagree with what the writer says. Decree 349, in its first “Insofar as,” indicates that it updates Decree No.226 (but in the Final Disposicion it revokes it) where this section expressly recognises its application to breaches of regulations and provisions currently in force relating to provision of artistic services in public spaces or premises, in labour matters and in regard to cultural, artistic and literary policy. It does not mention self-employment, and nor does Decree 349 expressly refer to it. continue reading

Nor does it refer to the Labour Code, as did its predecessor, by way of Law No. 49/83, which was repealed by Law No. 116/2014 (the current Labour Code), which authorises the Ministry of Culture (Article 76) to establish the procedure and the entities authorised to evaluate the eligibility and professionalism necessary to carry out artistic work, as well as the form of remuneration for artists.

It does act against the interests of artists and their artistic work

If Decree 349 does not act against the interests of the artist, what is the meaning of the offence mentioned in Section e) of Part 1 of Article 2. I quote: “In the offering of artistic services, there are contraventions … the person who performs artistic services in the absence of authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic position or occupation.”

Subsequent to the entering into force of the new Labour Code, the Ministry of Culture (MINCULT) promulgated Resolution No. 45, of 16th June, 2014, “Regulations for the evaluation system for workers in artistic fields.” This established an Artistic Technical Council or evaluation tribunal, whiich assesses the quality of work, qualitative development of the ability and skill of the individual or collective, and awards or withdraws the professional designation of artists (be they graduates of artistic teaching, general teaching, or amateurs) for artistic festivals, genres and specialities, and artistic responsibilities.

The Ministry of Culture and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television authorise institutions to make and market artistic productions and services. Only these entities are authorised to establish employment regulations with artists and groups of artists, according to professional performance. They have to apply for permission when they wish to contract an artist who has no evaluation for a particular performance or piece of work. It is forbidden to enter into employment relations with artists lacking an evaluation, who are not graduates of the artistic teaching system (they can be reevaluated after a year). An artistic group which loses its evaluation is dissolved.

There is no legal relationship with the self-employment regulations

Finally, Decree 349 broadens its coverage from “public places or institutions” to “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled.” The unhindered discretion and legal uncertainty is increased when the government does not define what is meant by “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled.”

It also widens the range of those to whom it may be applied. Decree No. 226 was limited to those individuals performing on behalf of a state, private, or mixed entity. Self employed persons (in the non-state sector) were not included because they are not entrepreneurs and therefore there is no legal reason for the state to consider them as entities (see the constitutional project glossary of terms).

Those individuals are authorised to undertake an economic activity, which, in the majority of cases, they undertake in their own houses. Clearly they carry out alterations to these business properties (hairdresser, bakery, restaurant, etc.) but legally they remain private residences. The state does not classify them as businesses or see the value of the property in that way.  There is no justification for considering the place where they work on a self-employed basis to be one of the “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled,” let alone as “businesses.”

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

The Essence of Decree 349/2018: subparagraph a) of Article 2 / Cubalex

In the foreground, Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Beside him, Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC, and Abel Prieto, Minister of Culture (Photo: Leyben Leyva / Juventud Rebelde)

Cubalex, 27 July 2018 — Details of Decree 349/2018, dictated by the Council of Ministers, which establishes the “Violations of the regulations in respect to the cultural policy and concerning the provision of artistic services”: In accordance with subparagraph a) of Article 2.

Possible behaviors that violate this provision: 

That you approve or permit the realization of artistic service without said service having been approved and contracted for by the cultlural institution responsible for that artistic service.

That you approve or permit the realization of artistic service with the use of media and installations belonging to an entity, without said services having been approved and contracted for by the cultural institution responsible for that entity. continue reading

That you approve or permit the realization of artistic service with the use of those associated with the commercial activity which has authorization, without said services having been approved and contracted for by the cultural institution responsible for its authorization.

Applicable sanctions:

These behaviors are considered very serious and the amont of fine imposed is 2,000 Cuban pesos.

If in the period of one year the same person incurs more than one violation or is warned, this is considered another incident and a single fine of 4,000 Cuban pesos is imposed.

In addition they can seize the equipment, computers, fixtures and other property, suspend immediately the performance or the showing of material.

They also can cancel the authorization to show it, based on self-employed work activity.

Commentary and doubts: 

The non-specified norm that is understood by artistic services allows a wide margin of discretional activity to those charged with its execution. It’s a form of advance censorship because it doesn’t allow the realization of artistic activity without authorization from the Ministry of Culture.

You have to be approved and contracted by a cultural institution, but not just any, only the one responsible for the provision of artistic services. Can’t they give an example of the cultural institutions that provide artistic services?

Here it’s not clear to whom this rule is directed, to the owner of a business or a director of an entity belonging or subordinated to the Ministry of Culture? Please inform us if you know of any business that can be affected by these rules.

Is the fine of 2,000 pesos commensurate with the income artists receive?Make this calculation taking into account that many times their works require investment in raw material or high-cost equipment, in specific markets.

Comment and share! Send your responses to info@cubalex.org.

The entry The essence of Decree 349/2018: subparagraph 2) of Article 2 first appeared in Cubalex.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Without Guarantees of Due Process, Detentions Always Appear Unjust / Cubalex

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent, 3 August 2018 — The constitutional reform will recognise Habeas Corpus, as it is applied in domestic law. An obviously ineffective procedure. It does not provide protection against arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance. Nor does it comply with international standards in terms of due process.

“No-one who is imprisoned considers that it is in order,” was  José Luis Toledo Santander’s cynical comment. “Everyone detained by the police considers himself innocent and to have been unfairly detained,” adds the deputy and member of the editing commission of the constitutional text. “That implies,” he concludes, “that every person detained by the police would be able to seek a writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Abuse of power and excess of discretional authority

The agents of police and security (Ministry of the Interior) have minimal training and excessive authority. After being recruited and a 6-month course, they are ready to exercise power and enjoy the impunity guaranteed by their uniform and their licence. continue reading

Whether on the orders of a superior, personal dislike, or a battle for territorial control — it’s all the same. No-one who has a business escapes the payment of tribute to the authorities. The evidence presented and declarations to a tribunal, whether true or not, carry more weight than the law itself.

In such circumstances, it is logical that everyone detained by the police considers himself unfairly detained. That’s the logic in a country where guarantees of due process do not exist.

Do you know that the police can interpret and apply, acting as judges, 27% of the offences in the Penal Code?

Without remission of the case to a tribunal, they are authorised to judge it, and apply a fine. When they exercise this power, they do not inform the detainees that, in the event of their accepting it, they are recognising their guilt (loss of the presumption of innocence) and abandoning the right to be judged by a tribunal.

Absence of independent, impartial tribunals

Do you know that the Committee against Enforced Disappearance (an office of the United Nations) is concerned that the subordination of the tribunals to the National Assembly and the Council of State affects the independance of the judiciary?

Yes, judges are subject to all types of political influence. Both of these state organs are charged with appointing, promoting, suspending, and dismissing them. A judge can be dismissed from a tribunal, for not being willing to join the Cuban Communist Party, which subjects them to conflicts of interest and intimidation.

Total absence of the right to defence and therefore the presumption of innocence

Did you know that the national tribunals only accept legal service contracts issued by the Collective Law Firms (Legal practices supervised by the Ministry of Justice)?

Yes, in practice they are obliged to contract defence lawyers from an organisation which is unique in the country and ideologically committed to the political group holding power in the country. This situation affects the right to freely select your lawyer.

Nor are the ONBC lawyers are not independent. They are subject to interference, pressure and undue influence from the authorities who intervene in the penal process, which prevents them from performing dilligently and fearlessly, acting against the interests of their clients.

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

What Rights are Affected or Restricted by Decree 349/2018? / Cubalex

T-shirts: Criminal Artist

Cubalex, 16 August 2018 — The Cuban State ,through Decree No. 349 of April 20, 2018, has deliberately adopted regressive measures without consideration or justification that disproportionately influence the exercise of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The decree limits equal access to worthy work to all people. It institutes forced labor by obliging artists to qualify with and establish links to a state institution in order to obtain remuneration for their work.

It establishes a system of retroactive censorship for cultural activities, the arts and other forms of expression, violating freedom for creative activity and the right to the full development of the human personality. It also violates the freedom of thought, belief, religion and of opinion, association and peaceful assembly. continue reading

Independent artists or those who do not have associations with the institutions of the state or groups of civil society will see themselves doubly discriminated against because their forms and means of expression are perceived by the state as a challenge, or an expression of political opinion.

It stimulates and promotes discrimination based on political opinion. It does not respond to any pressing public or social need. It does not pursue a legitimate purpose and is not compatible with the provisions, aims and objectives of international human rights law. It is not strictly necessary for the promotion of the general welfare of a democratic society.

On the contrary, it violates the principle of prior responsibilities that ensure respect for the rights or reputation of others, and the protetion of national security, the public order or health or public morals. With this decree victims are not needed, nor are affected groups or denunciations, and it does not take into account the guarantees of due process for the accused. The agents of the State will decide in a discretionary, selective and discriminatory way if any artistic manifestation promotes discrimination, violence or uses sexist, vulgar or obscene language.

Artists were not consulted before the adoption of Decree No. 349/2018 and the resolutions of the Ministry of Culture (MINCUL) that implemented this cultural policy. They are totally unprotected. They have no means to participate in the direction of public affairs nor in the process of formulation, application and adoption of public policy decisions that affect the exercise of their cultural rights.

They do not have access to effective judicial remedies or other adequate resources to obtain reparation, restitution, compensation and satisfaction or guarantees of non-duplication, in the event of possible violation of their moral and material interests. There are no mechanisms in the country to challenge this Decree in case of illegal, abusive, arbitrary, irrational or discriminatory application.

This article was first published in Cubalex.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

In Debate: Replies to Doubts About Decree 348/2018 / Cubalex, Laritza Diversent

Together we can. No to Decree 349. A law that makes art a crime..

What are “artistic services?”

Cubalex, 2 August 2018 — Artistic services are those offered by government organisations authorised to contract artistic workers. Artistic services may be requested from these entities. As I understand it, they are like agencies which employ artists or groups of artists. An individual or a business contracts the service, and pays the organisatioon. Then, the agency pays the artist. (Resolution 44/2014 “Regulations governing work arrangements for those whose work is of an artistic nature.”)

Is this terminology only used for people who are paid for their work as artists, or is it for all artists who show up in a place, if it is an independent place, like ours, where they aren’t paid to turn up?

According to Resolution 54/2014 “Regulations governing artistic work evaluation”, AN ARTIST is a person who interprets or carries out one or several works in accordance with each appearance and speciality. continue reading

To work professionally in each artistic field, a work evaluation is essential, apart from those exceptions established by the employment legislation in force for this sector (Article 11)

The artistic evaluation is confirmed by way of the issuing of the appropriate Evaluation Certificate, and is independently authorised for each speciality or each artistic position on an individual basis for each artist, and for groups of more than one artist, without prejudice to the individual pay guarantee (Article 10)

The regulation imposed by Decree 349/2018: One may not work as an artist, or carry out artistic activities without government authorisation

In accordance with Decree 349/2018, only state-authorised artists can offer artistic services, on an individual basis or on behalf of a group, and payment for work carried out is only permitted for such people.

Only people with authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic  position or occupation can offer artistic services, on condition that they have a signed “established contract”, with a state institution which is authorised to contract artists and to approve their offer of artistic services.

If an artist provides his services without the authority of an employing organisation which contracts with him, then an offence is committed and he will be fined. Additionally, any instruments, equipment, accessories or other goods may be seized, the performance or relevant screening immediately cancelled, any authorisation to perform independently may be cancelled, and the employing organisation may apply disciplinary measures.

Do you know where the Cuban cultural policy may be found?

The Cuban cultural policy should be all the regulations imposed by the Ministry of Culture, a government entity of the Central Government Administration of the Republic of Cuba, charged with the direction, guidance, control and execution, within its operational ambit, of the cultural policy of the state and Cuban government, in order to guarantee the defence, preservation and enrichment of the cultural heritage of the Cuban nation. The Mincult (Ministry of Culture) has a website where the cultural policy is explained.

M.sc Laritza Diversent, Executive Director of Cubalex

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH

Cubalex Demands the Immediate Release of the Artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry Del Río / Cubalex


Arrest of Luis Manuel Otero

Cubalex, 22 July 2018 – Peaceful gatherings and demonstrations are essential for public participation

On the afternoon of July 21, 2018, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco, Soandry del Río, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva and José Ernesto Alonso met in front of Havana’s Capitol building, contrary to the regulations of Decree 349 / 2018 that violates and restricts the freedom of artistic creation.

Luis Manuel Otero “covered his body with human excrement” and in a poster he demanded “free art. No to Decree Law 349” adopted by the Council of Ministers. With the exception of Nuñez Leyva they were all arrested. In the case of Otero Alcántara the arrest was carried out with an excessive use of force and along with Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, they were transferred to the police station located on Zanja Street in the capital. continue reading

Along with José Ernesto Alonso, Iris Ruiz was released four hours later, accused of creating public disorder. Luis Manuel, Amaury and Soandry were transferred to the Vivac detention center, where they are accused of public disorder and aggression.

We remind the Cuban State that the freedom to comment on public issues without censorship or limitations, as well as to inform public opinion, is indispensable to guarantee the full exercise of participation in public affairs, which includes the freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations and gatherings, to criticize or oppose the government, and to publish political material.

The arrest of the artists is arbitrary, irrational, unnecessary and disproportionate, because it violates recognized international standards in relation to the guarantees of due process.

The procedure for legal detention in Cuba allows for arbitrary detentions, currently used by state agents as punishment for the legitimate exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association, recognized in international human rights law.

States have the obligation not only to abstain from violating the rights of people who take part in a meeting, and to respect and guarantee the rights without any discrimination for prohibited reasons or of any other nature or any other condition of political opinion. The freedom to organize and participate in public meetings must be guaranteed to all natural persons, groups, non-registered associations, legal entities and companies.

In Cuba, access to public participation spaces is excessively and abusively restricted, as a result of which the full and free exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly is practically impossible.

Cubalex demands that the Cuban State immediately release artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, and adopt urgent measures to protect human rights defenders against reprisals and eliminate undue restrictions on the use of public spaces.

The Risks of Defending Human Rights in Cuba / Cubalex

Cubalex, 4 April 2017 — In the cycles of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held in 2009 and 2013, the Cuban State rejected 32 recommendations calling for an end to repression against human rights defenders and lifting restrictions that impede freedom of speech, opinion, association, assembly and peaceful demonstration.

Members of the Human Rights Council suggested that the state ensure a safe, free and independent environment for human rights activities, without the risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution or violence. continue reading

They recommended that the state refrain from abusing the criminal code to repress and harass people. In addition, all necessary measures should be taken including a review of the legislation, to ensure that all cases of aggression against human rights activists are investigated by independent and impartial bodies.

The Cuban State objected to these recommendations, on the grounds that they were inconsistent with the exercise of the state’s right to self-determination; they claimed that this would imply implementing a policy conceived by a foreign superpower, with the aim of destroying Cuba’s political, economic, and social system.

However, the government claims that, in the country, human rights defenders are protected, on an equal footing, and act with total freedom and without any restriction that is incompatible with international human rights instruments.

The state adds that there are the millions of people who in Cuba are grouped in thousands of organizations, and who have all the guarantees for the exercise of their rights. They do not need different protection from that of anyone with Cuban citizenship. They are not a threat, they are not in danger, nor do they face the possibility of an act in violation of the conduct of their activities.

You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex

Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic, social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the Government with repressive methods.

Workers have no right to strike nor can they freely create trade unions. The government refuses to legalize any social organizations that do not share the policies of the party elite. Dissidents and human rights defenders are stigmatized, harassed and ultimately imprisoned. continue reading

Opposition to the government can not be organized. There are no legal mechanisms for the existence of political parties. The PCC is the only party recognized in the National Constitution, which was drafted by the founders of this political organization, senior military commanders who have remained in power for almost 60 years; almost sixty years with two presidents, brothers named Castro.

This military elite, does not tolerate opposition, nor pay any political or economic price for harassing and repressing it. They are not open to public debate. Through the Law they harass people who openly criticize them.

They count on making an example of those who oppose them. The rest of society refrains from expressing their political preferences. They fear negative consequences in their lives. They are controlled by social and mass organizations.

The electoral law does not allow political parties to participate in the elections, but the PCC participates in them, through the mass organizations. They control the electoral process. They avoid competition and ensure that the members of this political organization are elected and appointed to hold office in government. Their leaders occupy positions in the highest party and state structure.

As a consequence, people with citizenship and residence on the island cannot run on equal terms. Nor do they have the mechanisms to participate in political and economic decision-making. The election of the members of parliament does not depend on their votes and political preferences.

They are excluded from intervening in the national economy, a privilege only allowed to foreigners. While the country’s economic situation is precarious and worsens, the State limits its ability to generate income. It obliges them, through the exercise of self-employment, to carry out non-professional economic activities with only minimum profit margins.

If Cubans dramatically flee the country, it is to seek better opportunities for their lives, but also to seek freedom. “When the people emigrate, the rulers are superfluous,” is a phrase of José Martí’s that today is fully in force.

Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights / Cubalex

Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society organzations, documenting human rights violations.

It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less democratic. Civil society is the one that monitors the universal and effective applications and implementation of human rights. continue reading

These organizations are the mediators between individuals and the State and an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies and the rule of law. Without civil society, there is no legitimate state.

Lamentably its members often are exposed to dangers. Many times they are tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including murder. They are vulnerable worldwide, due to undue restrictions on freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Of the 43 thematic mandates of the special procedures of the United Nations, the rapporteurs who deal with the exercise of these rights are those who send the most communications to the States. Cuba is no exception. These rapporteurs were the ones that sent the most communications, either individually or jointly, between 2011 and 2016.

However, the Cuban State disagrees with the rapporteurs’ characterization of the people who make up the organizations that defend human rights in Cuba. The State considers it inadmissible that they should be recognized internationally as such and as a part of Cuban civil society.

The State says that these human rights defenders aim to openly transgress the laws, undermine, subvert and destroy the political and social system, the internal legal and constitutional order, established in a sovereign way by the Cuban nation, acting against the purposes and principles enshrined in the International agreements on human rights.

It asserts that they are everything from invaders to terrorists, hiding behind the mantle of human rights defenders. it states that they receive funding from the United States government to fabricate excuses that justify their policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba.

The government denies the work of defending human rights on the part of informal civil society organizations, and discredits them, to increase their vulnerability.

Cuba: Government Affirms That There Is No Torture In The Country / Cubalex

Recent photos of Cuban human rights activists during and after their interactions with police and state security forces.

Cubalex, Havana, 16 March 2017 — In the two cycles of the Universal Periodic Review undertaken in 2009 and 2013, the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended that the Cuban State ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as soon as possible and without reservations, and pass laws to make it clear in national legislation that torture as a crime.

The Government took note of these recommendations, arguing that it ensured respect for the physical and spiritual integrity of persons and that it had effective national resources to ensure the rigorous implementation of the Convention.

It added that international investigations confirmed that people residing in its territory enjoy the fullest protection and enjoyment of the rights and remedies established by international human rights instruments.

It affirmed that there were no practices of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country. Consequently, it did not consider it necessary, to assume obligations with procedures and instances of supranational jurisdiction, for the processing of individual petitions.

The treaty bodies responsible for interpreting and monitoring the application of international human rights instruments are not authorized to hear individual complaints from individuals with Cuban citizenship and residence. Cuba does not recognize their jurisdiction.

Cuba: “Revolutionary Integration” As A Form Of Social Control / Cubalex

Cubalex, 2 March 2017 – It is common for people living in Cuba, once they start school at about six and pass from one educational level to another, to join social and mass organizations. First, in elementary school, the Pioneers, and then, at age 14, the social and mass organization and later the student organizations.

Once they start their working life they join the country’s only union, and the organization for their professional sector. Most do not have any assigned function, but they pay their dues.

The rule is that everyone is integrated into several of the social and mass organizations — all of them the only ones of their kind in the country — according to their educational level, their professional sector or specific interests. Their lives, social and work, and that of their families depend on this integration and on participating in patriotic, political and military activities.

“Revolutionary integration” violates freedom of association, which includes the right not to be forced to join an organization. It is a requirement to obtain a university degree, to get a job, or to ascend in the workplace, where one also is required to be integrated into political organizations.

State institutions, including schools, demand and verify your membership. Sometimes directly, others through a business subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. Security and Protection, or the organs of criminal investigation, coordiante with the social and mass organizations.

For example, the administration of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), when a case is being investigated, provide private and intimate information and opinions, in many cases personal and subjective, that are later used by the prosecutor.

In the sentences of the courts, in addition to the personal data, it is taken into account whether the accused person participates in activities “targeted or programmed by mass organizations” or whether the person publicly expresses disagreement with socialist principles. This determines whether he is good or bad person.

“Revolutionary integration” is the mechanism of social control that allows the political group in power to establish systems of rewards and punishments. People who do not join these organizations for religious reasons, or who publicly express their political opinions, are condemned to work immobility, isolation and social discrimination.

Broken Dreams / Cubalex

A montage of photos of Cubalex on the day of the police raid and mail from the people they help.

Translator’s note: The references here to the empty offices and the inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of last year, during which much of the organization’s equipment was confiscated.

Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the offices hardly bearable, their faces are not the same as before, but they continue to be united.

“A letter has arrived,” says an assistant. “Read it out loud,” everyone says. “It is a new case, I don’t recall the name,” she affirms. “But start reading it,” exclaimed the investigator.

“OK, I’ll start,” she says. “Havana, 16 November 2016, Dear Laritza and the Cubalex team, I recently wrote to you, another inmate gave me the address. Today I received an answer from you in which you explained the process to be able to help me. continue reading

“And I felt like the happiest prisoner in the world. I had written to all the state institutions and none responded to me. I am speaking to you from my heart, that you have given me back my hope and a desire to go on living.”

The emotion was visible on everyone’s face, after so many days without being able to do our work this letter filled the space and all of us with emotion. It was the first pleasant emotion we had felt after more than 90 days of anguish.

“A million thanks,” she continued reading, “love and blessings to you all, a thousand thanks for the help you can offer me, I have no way to thank you. I once again want to live. In you, I have found different human beings.

“I will send you all the documents you asked me for, I am serving a sentence for a crime I didn’t commit, while the real culprit walks free. They accused me of the theft and slaughter of cattle, and condemned me to 12 years* and I swear to you I am innocent.

“Soon I will turn 21, you are my best gift, just by responding to my letters. I was planning to go on a hunger strike, but I knew of Cubalex’s existence and the help you have given to many inmates here. May God always accompany you and thousands of blessings to you,” she concluded reading.

“He’s just a kid,” said the group’s senior sadly. “Where is it from?” “From Agüica,” replied the reader, looking at the envelope. “We have to answer him,” said the psychologist, “even if it’s on a blank sheet and with a pen. We must explain what happened at our headquarters on September 23. He has his hopes set on us.”

“I have an envelope, and I saw that they left the stamps on the day of the [police] operation, you’ll find them in my drawer,” said the secretary to the assistant.

“Who will answer him?” She asked. “I will,” was the answer that was heard in chorus. “That’s like pouring a bucket of cold water,” said secretary said. “It would be better if the psychologist answered.”

The silence was an expression of the anguish captivated them. “Send him the phone number to call us,” advised the Director. “At least we can guide him. Let’s keep the letter, to show it to the teacher Julio on the next visit to the prison. By the way, who is going to make this visit?”

“I am,” replied the social investigator. “Don’t worry, I’ll give it to him.”

*Translator’s note: the penalties for unauthorized slaughter of cattle in Cuba are very severe, and it is literally true that a person may serve more time for killing a cow than someone else serves for killing a person.