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.

Cuban Apartheid / Cubalex

“Law No. 118. Law of Foreign Investment”

Cubalex, Havana, 14 December 2016 – In Cuba there are no conditions under which economic, social and cultural rights can be exercised. “All Cubans have free healthcare and education,” is a claim that is easily refuted. We continue the debate with another question: Who decided we Cubans could not invest in a hotel or form joint ventures with the state?

First absolute silence, then a bombardment of stones. In the end, Pedro threw a pea! The National Assembly and the Council of State are those who dictate the laws, he responded, doubtfully.

“Have you read any law that says Cubans cannot invest in the national economy?” the professor asked. No, but the law is called “The Law of Foreign Investment” and it assumes that only they can participate in the national economy at the same level as the Cuban government.

Is it fair? He asked again. No, he said. Do you believe it is a violation of human rights? He continued interrogating him. I don’t know, he replied, annoyed. He approached him and slapped his shoulder twice. Yes, the state excludes us, discriminates against us, he said, while looking at him and nodding.

“We all have the right to equality and non-discrimination. It is a universally recognized right,” explained the professor while walking back and forth in the improvised classroom. The critics of this law call it Cuban Apartheid. Do they know this is a crime in the current Cuban Penal Code?

I leave them to their first task: reading paragraph (b) of Part 1 of Article 120 of the Penal Code. Explain in 140 characters, that is in a Tweet, if the situation just described could define the crime called “Crime of Apartheid.” See you next Wednesday. Don’t miss it!

See also:

‘El Sexto’ Moved to a Criminal Prosecution Center / 14ymedio

Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)
Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2016 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), was transferred Sunday from the police station at Zapata and C in Vedado to the Bivouac Calabazar criminal prosecution center in Havana. The graffiti artist’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado, visited him on Monday morning and told 14ymedio that the prosecution could keep him there for up to two months.

Machado’s meeting with her son only lasted 10 minutes, in which the artist was able to eat food brought from home, but still refused to eat food provided by the prison.

Machado said that the investigator in the case, Fernando Sanchez, informed her that her son could be held “up to 60 days in preventive detention.” The official explained that the detention would be extended “until the file is investigated.” Machado presented a petition for habeas corpus, with legal advice from the independent legal association Cubalex, and in particular from the attorney Laritza Diversent who leads that association.

El Sexto is accused of causing damage to state property, a crime “that does not exist in the Criminal Code,” Cubalex emphasized in an article published on its digital site. “Painting the walls or facades of a hotel constitutes a violation against public adornment. Inspectors of the communal system are entitled to impose, in these cases, a fine of 100 Cuban pesos (roughly $5 US),” says the article.

Habeas Corpus for ‘El Sexto’ / Cubalex

Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)
Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)

Cubalex, Havana, 6 December 2016 – On Monday, María Victoria Machado González, mother of Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto,’ petitioned the Provincial Court of Havana for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in favor of her son. In the petition, she asked the court to order the detaining authority to bring him before the court.

‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), 33, was arrested on the morning of 26 November. In the early hours of that same day he had painted a graffiti on one of the exterior walls of the Habana Libre Hotel, after official media announced the death of Fidel Castro, 90.

It is presumed that the arrest was carried out with violence. Witnesses said they forced his head between his legs. He was taken to 4 different detention. Currently he is in Vivac, in the Havana municipality of Boyeros.

The authorities informed Maria Victoria that on 5 December, nine days after his arrest, the prosecutor decided to keep him in preventive custody. The investigation is being carried out by the criminal investigator Fernando Sanchez. Maldonado is accused of damaging state property. This crime is not mentioned in the Criminal Code.

El Sexto’s mother also requested that the court order the immediate release of her son. The Criminal Code provides for a prison term or a fine for destroying, damaging or making unusable the belongings of another. This conduct does not correspond to Danilo’s actions.

According to the petition, preventive detention of El Sexto is arbitrary and illegal. Painting the walls or facades of a hotel constitutes a violation against public adornment. Inspectors of the communal system are entitled to impose, in these cases, a fine of 100 Cuban pesos (roughly $5 US).

Machado González also reported that her son was beaten by a Major of the Guanabacoa police when he asked for medical assistance because of asthma. She adds that Maldonado made the decision to only eat the food brought in by his relatives. He suspects that the meals offered at the detention center have sleeping pills in them.

Amnesty International Calls For “Urgent Action” to Support Cubalex /14ymedio, Miami

The State Security raid on Cubalex (Cubalex)
The State Security raid on Cubalex (Cubalex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 19 November 2016 –The non-governmental organization Amnesty International (AI) called on Friday to take “urgent action” to protect members of Cubalex, an NGO not recognized by the Cuban government against which there has been a resurgence of actions.

“Since September, the Cuban authorities have intimidated members of Cubalex, which provides free advice in Havana on legal matters and human rights,” AI said, detailing the raid on the organization’s headquarters where they confiscated laptops and documents,” according the Cubalex director Lartiza Diversent. continue reading

AI also mentioned the humiliating treatment of the security forces, including forcing at least one woman to disrobe. In addition, the Havana Provincial Prosecutor gave notice that Cubalex is under investigation regarding taxes.

AI also detailed the testimonies of two members of Cubalex who were summoned for interrogations, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. The authorities have also summoned people who have taken advantage of the legal advice offered by Cubalex.

“The director of Cubalex [Diversent] reported that in her recent travels she had been detained and interrogated several times at the airport. She believes that her home, which is used as a base for the activities of Cubalex, is under surveillance,” says the AI appeal.

The international organization calls on people to show solidarity with the members of Cubalex, by writing letters, email, faxes or tweets, to different Cuban officials on the island and abroad.

AI aims to sensitize international public opinion in order to allow members of Cubalex “and all other lawyers and human rights activists” to operate freely without harassment and intimidation.

Amnestey International also urges that the criminal justice system not be used abusively, nor that civil litigation be used to attack or harass human rights activists;

It calls for ensuring a safe and supportive environment in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of retribution, retaliation or intimidation.

Cubalex Launches Campaign For The Release Of Lawyer Julio Ferrer / Cubalex

Attorney Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamato
Attorney Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamato

Cubalex Center for Legal Information, Havana, 15 November 2016 – The Cubalex Center for legal Information is initiating a campaign in support of Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, an attorney by profession and a defender of human rights by conviction.

For years Ferrer Tamayo has faced alone a system where officials charged with following the law have used it as an instrument of domination, control and repression. He has denounced every violation of national legislation and international standards related to the guarantees of due process. continue reading

He has not emerged unscathed from his fight against the abuse of power. They have discredited him and acted against his wife. Today they are both in prison. He was charged in 2014 with the crime of falsifying public documents and in 2015 with the crime of contempt. He was tried and sentenced to 3 years and 6 months respectively.

The National Directorate of Penitentiary Establishments recognized the violations of the Law, but they keep him in prison because they cannot go against a judicial decision. The Supreme Court did not acknowledge the abuse of power of its officials in bringing charges. The National Assembly and the Council of State listened and remained silent before the abuses.

The sentencing court cannot change the decision, but prison officials allege that they have requested a correction of the combined sentence. There is no doubt, they are trying to resolve the abuses with more illegalities. Impunity is the order of the day. There is no intention to comply with the law, nor to punish those responsible for violating it.

There is nothing left for state institutions other than to listen to reason, but they refuse to budge. Their violations can only be corrected through a review procedure which, according to the law takes about three and a half months, but Ferrer Tamayo has already waited nine months for a response from the President of the Supreme Court.

Cubalex demands respect from the authorities for the National Law and asks anyone committed to freedom, democracy and human rights to join our campaign for the immediate release of Julio Ferrer.

Follow us on Twitter and use our hashtag #Free-Ferrer. Visit our Facebook page and give us a ‘Like’. Help us to spread our messages for his release on social networks. Add your voice to ours, we shout together in the phrase of José Martí: “In justice there can be no delay, whomever delays its fulfillment turns against himself.”

About Cubalex

The Cubalex Legal Information Center is headquartered in Havana, Cuba. We are a non-profit NGO, not recognized by the Cuban state. We offer free legal advice in matters of legalization of housing, immigration procedures, inheritance, labor, processes of criminal review, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights, at a national and international level, to Cuban or foreign citizens who request our help.

Twitter: @CubalexDDHH

Email: cubalexdd.hh@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CubalexLey

Laritza Diversent: “We Have The Right To Participate In The Social And Political Life Of The Country” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Video: Police search of Cubalex: breaking open the gate.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2016 – The headquarters of the independent legal group Cubalex, this weekend, lacked the hectic bustle of the many users who normally flock to the site for legal advice, especially the families of inmates who come with thick folders of documents, appeals and demands.

When the attorney Laritza Diversent received us for this interview, the furniture had not been put back in place after an intense search that left everything “upside down” and, on the table, lay the shattered remains of a door latch, as physical proof of forced entry.

See also: Police Burst Into Cubalex Headquarters and Cuban Police Seize Legal Center’s Work Equipment

The psychological scars are fresh among team members of this organization, threatened with a legal process and forced to strip naked during the search. However, on Sunday the legal work resumed its course, thanks to the solidarity of other members of civil society who provided two computers. A few papers comprise the first evidence of a case that will demand time and expertise from Cubalex: their own complaint against the authorities who seized their belongings but could not stop their work.

14ymedio. What was the point of the raid against Cubalex?

Diversent. There were parallel purposes. On the one hand there were the architectural changes made on this house, where they were looking for the slightest violation of planning regulations. For example, they fixated on a bathroom that we put under the stairs as a service to the public. At the same time they wanted to monitor our work as an organization that provides legal services to the population. continue reading

14ymedio. Who participated in the police search?

Diversent. The prosecutor Beatriz Peña of Oz, the Attorney General of the Republic, at the head of about 20 people. Among them, a doctor, an employee of the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Juan Carlos, who led the operation from his status as an officer of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), another prosecutor of the province and an instructor called Doralis, who made the list of the equipment that was seized.

They also brought experts who took photos, a videographer who was filming everything, and other computer experts. They had several officials from State Security, two uniformed police officers and other MININT officials wearing the uniform typical of prison guards; a representative from the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT), another of the Institute of Physical Planning and another from the Ministry of Justice.

Laritza Diversent (Source: Cubalex)
Laritza Diversent (Source: Cubalex)

14ymedio. Why was there a representative of the ONAT present?

Diversent. It was justified with the assumption that we are undertaking an activity defined as ‘self-employment’, that we are providing a service for which we are supposedly charging people, without having the necessary permit. We explained to them in every possible way that we are a non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides a free social service, but they acted as if we hadn’t made that clear.

14ymedio. Why a repressive act of this nature at this time and against a peaceful group?

Diversent. It is very difficult to find the reasons for this action, which can be described as unconscionable. But it can be attributed to what we have done. First, our attempts to achieve the legalization of our organization, Cubalex. We have also filed complaints against official institutions such as the General Customs of the Republic, saying that books and other belongings have been seized from us at the airport without justification. That complaint we have taken to court. We have also made a policy proposal to the Communist Party of Cuba to change the electoral law.

14ymedio. So you think that is a response to these actions?

Diversent. You would have to ask them. As citizens we believe we have the right to make proposals and we have the right to participate in the social and political life of the country in which we live.

14ymedio. Did you resist the police officers who were entering the premises?

Diversent. The “resolution to enter the home” – the warrant – to undertake the search said that they were looking for “objects of illicit origin,” but it didn’t specify which ones. The law establishes that this detail must be clarified, so I denied them entrance and invoked the right to inviolability of one’s home. However, they broke the lock on the outer gate and also the one on the main door to the house.

The doorknob and lock to Cubalex headquarters which was destroyed by the police to enter the premises.(14ymedio)
The doorknob and lock to Cubalex headquarters which was destroyed by the police to enter the premises. (14ymedio)

14ymedio. The law also specifies that the search must be made with at least two members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution [local watchdogs] as witnesses. Was that requirement met?

Diversent. The witnesses were two members of the party nucleus in the zone, who did not behave as impartial witnesses, but as partners in the operation. To the extent that they sometimes suggested to MINIT officials where they needed to search, and they constantly used the term “we” with the sense of being a part of the operation, far from their supposed function as impartial witnesses. One of them was more than 85-years-old and boasted of being an unblemished revolutionary.

14ymedio. What was the final outcome of the search?

Diversent. They seized four laptops and five desktop PCs, including a server, and three multifunctional printers. In addition they took hard drives, memory sticks, cameras and all the cell phones were taken.

14ymedio. What has been the reaction of other independent groups to this search?

Diversent. Almost all the entities of civil society have expressed their solidarity.

14ymedio. Could the information seized pose a risk to you?

Diversent. More than 200 case files that we are working were taken, many of them regarding inmates anxious to see some improvement in their status as prisoners. There is a risk that these people, in exchange for any advantage in their prison regimen, might declare something that hurts us, such as that we charge for our services. But that is in the realm of speculation.

14ymedio. What is the worst thing that could happen?

Diversent. We are very concerned because they have made specific threats against us, such as that so far this is an administrative matter but that it could become another type of process.

14ymedio. Are you thinking of not continuing the work you have been doing?

Diversent. No. Rather, what happened encourages us to keep doing what we do.

Cuban Police Seize Legal Center’s Work Equipment / 14ymedio

Cubalex's office (Source: Laritza Diversent)
Cubalex’s office (Source: Laritza Diversent)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 September 2016 – Friday’s police assault against the headquarters of Cubalex, Center of Legal Information, located in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, resulted in the seizure of six computers, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones. The officers informed the lawyer Laritza Diversent that she could be accused of the crime of “illicit economic activity,” according to a report from the activist Kirenia Yalit to this newspaper.

The headquarters of the independent group was searched on Friday, by members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and members of State Security, who stormed the place breaking down the doors.

The thorough search of the building lasted until after eleven p.m. and “when it seemed that everything was going to end and they had concluded their interrogations” of the activists, they forced them to strip naked “and squat to verify that there was nothing hidden in their bodies,” said Yalit. continue reading

The independent lawyers denounce the fact that they never showed a warrant that met the requirements for a search.

“They took everything, they just left some chairs and tables,” says Yalit, which 14ymedio was able to confirm through sources near the site. The prosecutor who led the operation informed the attorneys that the case “is of interest to the Attorney General of the Republic” and that they would undertake all relevant investigations to determine whether to proceed with an indictment against them.

Dayan Pérez Noriega, who was taken to a police station when he tried to send Twitter messages about what was happening, was released at around ten at night. The attorney Julio Ferrer, a member of Cubalex, remains missing after having been intercepted by the police on Friday.

After the operation at the property was completed, the lawyers received no  immediate injunction, fines or written summons.

Attorney Laritza Diversent intends to denounce “the outrage committed,” as she has done on previous occasions when she demanded the return of her belongings seized by Cuban Customs at the airport.

The Legal Information Center, Cubalex, is an independent agency that has provided free legal advice since 2010. The lawyers’ group also focuses on human rights issues. In July of this year Cuba’s Ministry of Justice rejected the application filed by the group’s members for legal status for the organization.

Police Burst into Cubalex Headquarters / 14ymedio

Attorney Laritza Diversent (left) with the activist Yalit Kirenia during a presentation at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Youtube)
Attorney Laritza Diversent (left) with the activist Yalit Kirenia during a presentation at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 September 2016 — The headquarters of Cubalex, The Center of Legal Information, located in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, was searched by National Revolutionary Police (PNR) officers and State Security agents on Friday, as confirmed to this newspaper by the independent journalist Osniel Carmona.

After two in the afternoon, the police burst into the site which is also the home of independent attorney Laritza Diversent. Until after five in the afternoon all the phones of Cubalex members remained out of service and access to the house was restricted by the security forces, according to what this newspaper was able to confirm. continue reading

Seven people were inside the home at the time the search started, among whom were Ariadna Romero, Yamara Curbelo Rodríguez, María Bonet, Teresa Perdomo, Amado Iglesias, Diego Ricardo and Laritza Diversent herself.

During the morning Laritza Diversent had informed 14ymedio that there was a operation “organized by State Security agents and the police” around the house. She explained that several neighbors advised her of the presence of “buses and patrol cars,” so she feared they would eventually get inside the house.

T”a report on the status of freedom of expression in Cuba” that she presented “to the special rapporteur for freedom of expression” in the city of Geneva “in mid-August.”

“We feel that we are now at risk and are calling all our contacts asking for help so that the world knows that right now our office and our organization are at risk,” the attorney warned by phone.

The activist Kirenia Yalit Núñez, a member of Cubalex who is just a few blocks away, explained that the agency “had a judicial order but Laritza rejected it because it wasn’t valid.” However, a little later “they broke into the house with a crowbar and broke several locks.”

After six in the evening the activist Teresa Perdoma was released and she said that they had threatened Diversent with an accusation of “illicit economic activity.” The police also warned that they would take “all the equipment, like computers, flash memories and hard drives.”

She was arrested in the operation and taken to the Dayan Perez Noriega police station, where she tried to send Twitter messages reporting what happened. The other activists remained in the building until eight o’clock on Friday night. Two police patrol cars guarded the entrance.

The Legal Information Center, Cubalex, is an independent entity that has provided free legal advice since 2011. The lawyers’ group also focuses on Human Rights issues. In July of this year Cuba’s Ministry of Justice rejected the application for legal status presented by its members.

Three Key Proposals for Reforming the Cuban Electoral System / Laritza Diversent

Photograph: Red Mi Voz

Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016 — On February 23, 2015 the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) announced that its VII Congress would take place in April 2016 and that the National Assembly of People’s Power would be asked to amend the electoral process and adopt a new law to govern the general elections of 2018.

Cubalex conducted an investigation of the Cuban electoral system and held discussions involving representatives of independent civil society organizations to identify obstacles to full and equal citizen participation in the political process. We consulted experts in Latin American electoral issues to take advantage of this region’s broad experience over the last 30 years. continue reading

In search of political openness and a peaceful transition, we have formulated three key proposals to reform the electoral system by promoting comprehensive elections and eliminating restrictions on the right to elect and be elected in order to realize the constitutional precept that “Cuba is an independent and sovereign state, organized as a unitary and democratic republic for the enjoyment of political liberty.”

As an independent civil society organization, we are proposing three key reforms as instruments to encourage democratic change in our society. These include reestablishing the rule of law, democracy, political pluralism and respect for human rights — especially for those groups interested in participating in the process established by the PCC — by promoting “elections with integrity” based on democratic principles of universal suffrage and political equality.

1. Citizens would submit names of candidates for Municipal Delegate positions to direct public vote (by show of hands) at local nominating conventions. In circumstances in which a candidate is someone other than one nominated by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the final choice would be made by the citizenry. 

2. The system established by the current electoral law prohibits political campaigning and restricts the right of citizens to formulate and demonstrate their political preferences and obtain information from a variety of sources.

These proposals by civil society organizations would guarantee citizens the right to organize themselves into movements, political parties or civil-political associations based on ideological and political preferences for the formulation of proposals on public policy, the promotion of political debate and the observation of electoral processes.

3. Currently, the National Electoral Commission, the supreme electoral body, only operates during election cycles and is appointed by the Council of State. Its temporary nature and designation as a political body rather than an organization made up of professionals threatens its independence and impartiality. Furthermore, the Office of Voter Registration operates under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, a military institution, which discourages citizens from requesting information necessary to exercise their political rights.

Our reform project seeks to generate confidence and guarantee the political rights of citizens as well as electoral integrity and transparency by means of a decentralized and permanent election commission and by charging the Office of Voter Registration with guaranteeing the full independence and financial resources of both institutions and of the officials which constitute it.

We are also soliciting help from the international community because of refusals by our government to listen to us or discuss this issue. The Cuban government responds to every civil society proposal with greater repression, stigmatization and discrimination. We need help in opening channels of communication with authorities. We need mediation and dialogue. We need help in achieving what all Cubans clearly want: a peaceful transition to a democratic, pluralistic, just and inclusive government.

It is worth noting that on May 1, 2013 the Cuban government underwent the Periodic Universal Exam and in a constructive manner agreed and voluntarily promised to adopt measures to promote effective participation by non-governmental organizations and civil society institutions and to adopt legislation to promote human rights.

About Cubalex

The Cubalex Legal Information Center — headquartered in Havana, Cuba — is a non-profit organization of attorneys and activists which defends human rights. Our mission is to promote and defend human rights in Cuba, establish the rule of law and democratize Cuban society.

We offer free legal advice in matters involving housing, immigration, inheritance, labor, criminal appeals, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights on a national and international level to Cuban or foreign citizens who request it.

We can be reached by email at centrocubalex@gmail.com or by telephone at (+53) 7-647-2216 or (+53) 5-241-5948

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ONGcubalex/?ref=hl

Web address: http://centrocubalex.com/

CENTRO CUBALEX

#Otro18 Civic Platform Will Hold Forum On Citizenship And Multi-Party Voting / 14ymedio

The logo of the Civic Platform #Otro18 (Another 2018)
The logo of the Civic Platform #Otro18 (Another 2018)

14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2016 – The group that manages the #Otro18 (Another 2018) Civic Platform has convened its first forum in early March in Cuba, under the slogan Citizenship Revisited, Multi-party Voting. Proposals ranging from reforms to the electoral law to a new law on associations will be presented at the meeting. Participants will include representatives from some 45 independent groups involved in the campaign, according to a statement from its organizers.

Participation in the Forum will be free and international experts on electoral and freedom of association issues have been invited as observers, along with representatives of the diplomatic corps. In the next few days a press conference will be held to define the agenda, date and place of the meeting. Since the Cuban government announced its intention to draft a new electoral law, different political and civil society actors have been encouraging the idea of gathering proposals from the public, with all the diversity and plurality of Cuban society.

Cubalex, an organization of independent lawyers, led the initial technical phase of this campaign in collaboration with lawyers from the Cuban Law Association and other institutions.

Political activists of various organizations such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the United Anti-totalitarian Forum, Somos+ (We Are More), Independent and Democratic Cuba, Cuban Solidarity Liberal Party, Liberal Party of Cuba (Azules), and the Center for Support of the Transition and Progressive Arc, as well as independent journalists, and community, civic and human rights activists, along with independent actors, participated in intense days both within and outside of Cuba.

With this event, #Otro18 completes the initial technical part in the first stage of its project, and initiates the policy and strong social and civic advocacy phase, ahead of the proposed reforms to the electoral law and the law of associations.

Cuba: Artist imprisoned for painting the names "Fidel" and "Raul" on two piglets / Laritza Diversent

After 90 days of imprisonment, there is no formal accusation against the artist, Danilo Maldonado.

Laritza Diversent, Havana, 25 March 2015 — Authorities are still imprisoning the artist, Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), who was detained arbitrarily by the police.

Maldonado, 31 years old, is an urban artist and painter who finds himself accused of “aggravated contempt,” a charge that the Cuban State uses to incarcerate people who are critical of the Government. He presently is serving 90 days in preventive custody in Valle Grande, on the outskirts of the Capital.

On the afternoon of December 25, 2014, Maldonado staged a “show” in a spot in the city of Havana, when he was detained by police operatives. They arrested him for having two piglets in a sack. One was painted on the back with the name “Fidel,” and the other, with the name “Raul.”

Both names are common; however, the authorities assumed that they disrespected the Castro brothers, and they could impose on him a sanction of between one and three years of prison. continue reading

Cubalex presented an appeal before the Havana tribunal for the authorities to explain the motive for the detention, a recourse that was denied.

The prosecutor didn’t even formally present the accusation before the tribunal. Maldonado’s lawyer asked the authorities several times to allow him to await trial in liberty, which request was also denied.

In Cuban law, the crime of “contempt” is an amplified term that includes defamation or insults toward other Government employees, and it carries aggravated penalties when it is committed against the Head of State. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has said that this type of rule goes against freedom of expression and the free demonstration of ideas and opinions, which do not justify the imposition of sanctions.

Let’s not forget that all those people who exercise public office or are important statesman, like the Heads of State or the Government, can be legitimate objects of criticism or political opposition. Freedom of expression should take place without inhibition in the public debate about Government officials.

Let’s ask the Cuban State to guarantee and respect Danilo Maldonado’s right to freedom of expression, without restrictions. Furthermore, let’s ask the international community to speak up for his freedom and his right to a fair trial.

About Cubalex:

Cubalex, the Center of Legal Information, is located in Havana, Cuba. We are a non-profit organization founded in 2010, not recognized by the Cuban State. We offer free legal advice on housing, migration, inheritance, criminal appeals, constitutional procedures and defending civil and political rights, in the national and international arena, to Cuban citizens or foreigners who request our services.

If you want a consultation, you can find us through our email: centrocubalex@gmail.com;

or by telephone:  (537) 7 647-226 or  (+535)-241-5948

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cubalex states that its work is in ‘danger’ / 14ymedio

The lawyers of Cubalex Laritza Diversent and Barbara Estrabao day the report on the Commission.(14ymedio)
The Cubalex lawyers Barbara Estrabao (L.) and Laritza Diversent (R.) on the day the report to the Human Rights Commission.(14ymedio)

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14ymedio, 22 March 2015 – Last Friday the Cubalex Center for Legal Information circulated a statement in which they report that their work is in “danger.” The independent entity said that after their presentation of “a report about Cuban prisons, the campaigns of defamation and harassment increased” toward their members.

In the text there is reference to a robbery that occurred in Cubalex’s offices on March 12, when “unidentified people broke in and (…) stole a laptop, a tablet, an iPod, a modem, an external hard disk, several flash memories and computer parts.”

The statement goes on to say that “the fact that no other objects of value were stolen, only those that could contain information about the work of the organization, leads one to assume (…) that the aggressors came on the part of the state authorities.”

In recent months Cubalex has reported being a “target of a smear campaign that includes libelous notes accusing the organization of corruption.” The texts are published on the Internet, most of the time anonymously or without specifying the source of the complaint.

Laritza Diversent, attorney and member of Cubalex, reports that since 2013 there has been “increased surveillance, harassment and threats against members of the team.” The lawyer explained that the pressure on the group increased after the presentation of the report on the detainees in Cuba, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The harassment includes “threats to prosecute the family members of the Cubalex team and to confiscate the building where the office is located.”

Given this context, in its statement Cubalex demands that the Cuban government “guarantee and protect the work of organizations and leaders engaged civil society of in defense of human rights.” In addition, it asks “the international community to rule in favor of the guarantees of our work.”

The Cubalex Center for Legal Information is headquartered in Havana and is considered a non-profit organization not recognized by the Cuban state. It has offered free legal advice since 2010, concerning the legalization of housing, immigration procedures, inheritance, labor, criminal review processes, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights of Cuban or foreign citizens who ask them.