El Ñaño in Prison / Yaremis Flores, Cuban Law Association

By Yaremis Flores

Members of the Rastafarian culture on our island are discriminated against by society and by the authorities. They are often linked to crime and deprivation. The Rasta Hector Riscart Mustelier, was arrested at dawn on November 16, 2011, as he left the National Cabaret, across from Central Park, after a performance of the musical group “Herencia” which he directs. The reason: an alleged crime of drug trafficking and resisting arrest. Possible punishment: 10 years in prison.

“The guards wanted to search me front of everyone. I asked them to handcuff and take me to the station. I am an artist and that is a violation of my honor,” said Hector, better known as ‘El Ñaño’. “A policeman was upset, he hit me and handcuffed me on the ground. My turban had fallen to the ground,” he said.

Law enforcement officers in Old Havana, participating in the arrest, acknowledged that the suspect that offered his identity card and then “in order to prevent the operation, he wriggled away, jerking his body. His turban covering his ‘dreadlocks’ (as Rastas wear their hair) came off, revealing two wrappers with 65 grams of marijuana,” according to the provisional findings of the Prosecutor, dated January 30, 2012.

The accusation relied on the statements of the policemen; according to them they had an undercover cop in the cabaret. However, Riscart said there were other interests that led to his arrest: “An officer of the National Drug Task Force identified as Yoandris, proposed that I work with him, I refused and he warned me that I was going to be sorry.”

Other “evidence” for the prosecution, is the detainee’s urine sample, the result confirms the consumption of marijuana — not punishable under Cuban law — but nothing proves the crime he’s charged with.

El Ñaño said his statement can be corroborated by the security cameras where he was arrested. “I demand the presentation of the film, which should be at the service of the citizens,” he said. But it is rumored that, coincidentally, the security cameras did not work that night. El Ñaño also reported that his lawyer was afraid to challenge the authorities.

The prosecution says the accused “was marketing the addictive substance inside the cabaret” but no money has been seized as a result of the apparent business. Neither did they find any drugs in a raid on his home. The prosecutor also said that the accused meets many drug traffickers, but omitted their names and as well as why these so-called “capos” are not in prison.

Yaremis Flores

The trial, held behind closed doors despite being a criminal offense not classified as closed to the public, was concluded on Friday April 13 at the Diez de Octobre Municipal Court rather than the Provincial Court of Havana, although this offense is its jurisdiction. It is expected that there is no new arbitrariness in the application of the law.

19 April 2011

 

Condemned for Rape Without a DNA Test / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores

On the tenth of January 2006, the Provincial Court of Las Tunas condemned Ramos Utra to 20 years in jail for the rape of a six-year old girl. The accused, 46 years old, declared himself innocent. Nevertheless the judge sentenced him convinced that “the facts occurred in this way and no other, according to the testimony of the minor”.

The victim recognized as hers underwear found in the home of the accused, with which she was supposedly tied and gagged. But the investigation found no physical evidence corroborating that it was this underwear and no other, that used in the crime.

According to judicial authorities, the convicted took advantage of his having found himself alone with the child and “giving free rein to prurient impulses, penetrated her, performing movements pertinent to the act”. The following day, the child told her mother what had happened and “she alerted the authorities”.

It turned out to be credible to the judges that although and when the accused had “aberrant desires”, it was the child alone who presented with raised fissures in her genitals, unnoticed by the mother who did not suspect what had happened.

Although three witnesses testified that the accused was not alone with the minor at any time, they were dismissed by the Court “not for being favorable to the accused but for showing a marked interest in helping him” the judges confirmed at the time of sentencing, when they also threw out a laboratory test that affirmed that there was no match between the semen found and the blood of the accused.

The lawyer for the defense proposed a DNA exam of the underwear that the minor was wearing on the day of the crime. The judges denied this and validated what had been declared by a police investigator who assured a match between the semen and the blood type of the supposed guilty, insufficient evidence in any just legal system, to overturn the presumption of innocence of the accused

Cuban judges judge sheltered in a “free” assessment of the test. A flawed assessment allows that “you may arrive at any decision but justify it well” according to the President of the Chamber of the Court of Havana which conveys its “insights” to the less experienced. In this manner, the accused must bet on the good faith of those who judge them.

“A delayed examination of DNA, beyond 24 hours, successfully revoked a wrongful judicial finding in the United States, in the case of one sentenced to life imprisonment for sexual assault” according to a press release published in the official press Granma on the 12th of December, 2005. More than 160 people have been freed thanks to the test, in this country.

Ramos Utra has slept more than two thousand nights in prison and insists on his innocence. The possibilities that a trustworthy laboratory analyzes the genetic information of his blood at this point are zero. This is because the Court ordered the destruction by burning of the underwear containing the semen and the panties found in his home.

Translated by: William Fitzhugh

March 27 2012

Story of an "Occupation" / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores.

The coordinator of the Cultural Project OMNI Zona Franca, Amaury Pacheco del Monte, is a dreamer. He fantasizes he can offer his family a comfortable life. He’s far from juggling enough to meet the needs of his six small children. His family suffers fromthe housing shortage onour island, and on top of that,from institutional and human indolence.

Fourmonths ago Amaury illegally occupied an apartment in the capital district of Alamar. He broke into a building that had been vandalized and used by lovers. The apartment was empty for years, but it was requested by several neighbors who lived stacked on top of each other, or who had serious health problems and needed an apartment like that one, on the lower level. Amaury lived in subhuman conditions, like other Cubans, even if, according to the Constitution, everyone has the right to adequate housing.

The maxim that your best friend is your nearest neighbor doesn’t have as much force today. The neighbor upstairs sleeps peacefully, without turning the passkey that could supply water to the new tenants. He refuses to do it until ordered bysome authority.

Weeks pass without access to water or electricity. Institutionslike the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women and Social Workers have made an appearance, each like a poor student who goes to school just to be present. They appear unfazed by the shortage of essentials. The Neighborhood Council also remains deaf and dumb before these events.

“Representatives of some agencies advise me to say thatthey alreadywent through here if someone checks; they take notes as proof and go away,” points out Iris Ruiz, Amaury’s wife. “I won’t accept a bureaucratic response,” she says, with her newborn daughter in her arms, who, asleep, seems oblivious to what is taking place.

One of the most famous phrases of our National Hero, José Martí, comes to mind: “Children are the hope of the world.” It’s ironic to see a family that has contributed to thealready marked birth rate in our country unable to find a solution to their problem.

The General Housing Act offers some ways to solve cases like this. One is to facilitate the status of squatters so they become renters, with the possibility of purchasing the home and paying the set price.

Ibelieve in the popular saying “if you want it enough, it can happen.” However, Amaury’s family awaits a favorable ruling by the lazy officials. Not out of pity, but because of their duty to uphold the law.

Translated by Regina Anavy

March 8 2012

"Occupy" in Havana / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores.

On the periphery of Havana, in the Alamar district,cases of illegal squatters inunoccupied buildingsare proliferating. The Government and the Municipal Housing Division (DMV), the entities in charge of solving the problem, are simply targets for the numerous complaints and pleas of the population.

“You’re not on the list of priority cases, there are people worse off, and they haven’t committed an offense like you,” said Rita, president of the Alamar Government, to Iris, on Thursday Feb. 9, in an interview, togetherwith the DMV Legal Subdirector.

Iris Ruiz, the wife of the OMNI-ZONAFRANCA coordinator, and her 6 small children, occupied the apartment 4 months ago, Number 1 of the Building E-83, Zone 9 Alamar, where they currently live without water or electricity. Her family was declared an illegal occupant by Resolution 1608/2011, which establishes that “in 2004 the house was confiscated, after the definitive exit of the owner, who went to the U.S.”

“It’s uncertain that the house was confiscated,” said Iris. “The Director of the DMV told me that the apartment is not included in the housing stock. After 2004, two people lived there. One of them is still on the records of Betty, the president of the CDR, even though they abandoned the country more than 5 years ago.”

“They left this apartment ruined, while other people needed it,” Iris added. Neighbors say a DMV inspector visited the site several times with apparent illegal buyers for the property.

“Rosaura, a neighbor of this building, has a son who had a heart operation, and she lives together with 10 people; Estela, a neighbor at Building E-79, has a paraplegic daughter and needs to live on the ground floor. These are two of the parties who tried to get the unoccupied apartment. The Government’s response was negative, because “the apartment is already taken.”

Who gets priority? Iris wonders.

According to the President of the Government of Alamar, at the municipal level no institution has the power to assign housing. Since 2006, this functionhas been the responsibility of the Provincial Government. “Only from me can you get an apartment, since our mission is to combat illegal behavior,” Rita warned Iris, after showing her the extensive list of squatters, waiting for eviction by the authorities.

Yaneisy, known as “the Twin,”already has lived through the experience of an eviction. She’s had a social-work case-file in the Alamar DMV for 16 years. Some time ago, she illegally occupied an apartment. “Theyevicted me with my 2 young children and put all my belongings on the street. They told me I should go back to my place of origin: a 2-room apartment, where 12 people were living together,” she said.

The housing shortage is a sad reality that increasingly affects a larger number of Cubans. Those scattered around by the usual shortage can’t afford to pay monthly rent for housing, let alone buy a house, whose prices don’t invite optimism.

Translated by Regina Anavy

March 6 2012

The High Court predicts an increase in competition from the Municipal Courts / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores

The Supreme Popular Court foresees an increase in competition from the Municipal Courts during this current year 2012. This reform was predicted in the setting of meetings between professional judges and involves the integration of crimes with penalties ranging from three to eight years, to the understanding of municipal authorities

According to current legislation, the Municipal Courts are capable and fit to know sanctionable deeds with the deprivation of liberty or incarceration up to three years. With this new change, they would be able to punish someone selling beefsteak or a bearer of a firearm, among others

This transformation, aimed at alleviating the backlog of work in the Provincial Court, nevertheless requires fundamental changes. Some of those provide a high level of improvement and adequate protection of judges.

With respect to this, a professional judge of the municipal court of the Capital affirmed that:”I fear for my security. The penalties are more severe and unlike those who work at the High Court, we don’t even get worker’s transportation. I have even ended up with the accused or their family members, in public transportation after having conducted their trial!”

The neglect of the circumstances of the lives of judges is alarming. It contributes to demotivation and in the worst of cases, to an increase in corruption and impunity. The only incentive received by functionaries of the courts is a bonus of 60 pesos in national currency* to buy clothes and footwear in a shop whose prices are not favorable. And this after a rigorous selection process that prevents enjoyment of the prize to those who apply for certificates ofmedical leave, leave without salary or workers on maternity leave even and when appropriate dress is demanded of workers in the judicial system.

December 27 passed as a commemoration to Day of the Courts — December 23 — an event was held at the Social Circle, located in the Capital. Nevertheless the budget of the High Court did not even factor in a defraying of expenses for the refreshments of the guests of honor who paid for their own appetizers at the same price offered to the public.

However, Rubén Remigio Ferro, president of the highest judicial authority, said at the close of the year in his disclosure of the rendering of accounts to the National Assembly that: “noteworthy steps have been consolidated in advance in the improvement of the conditions of work and attention given to the necessities of judges and other functionaries of the system.”

*Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies. One, the CUC is tied directly to the U.S dollar but the other “moneda nacional” is worth less. The bonus amounts to about $2.50 US.

Translated by: William Fitzhugh

February 29 2012

Unusual Experiences at Hospital Nacional / Yaremis Flores

  Foto: Yaremis Flores Yaremis Flores

Amparo awoke in the room while a tube scraped against her throat. Endoscopy, a delicate and risky technique which they performed without adequate anesthetic. This 55-year-old woman used to be Doctor Gonzalez. Something’s up and she knows it but her colleagues can’t find what. She is now the patient in bed 33, room 5B of National Hospital. The nurse on the earlier shift thought that they would be able to “sell her a pig in a poke” with the Rocephin. A third generation antibiotic very sought after on the black market.

The modus operandi is to add water to the Rocephin solution with the aim of saving the rest for business. Amparo as a doctor noticed this detail in the end; the solution didn’t look as yellow as it should. Now the ingenious doctors added crushed Polivit to mask their scam.

There are lazy and irresponsible people who no longer debate between the good and the bad. They don’t think twice about profiting from the misery of others. Patients and family members complain to the director of the center, Doctor Armando Aguiar. But everything continues and nothing changes.

Doctors without gloves. Baths without water. Dirty tiles. Customary insects. A small room with six beds. Medical students eager to experiment with the suffering at hand. The doctors no longer say much about the illness. They prefer to read their Clinical History.

The personnel of the infirmary receive the dose of the medicines to be administered from the physicians. But poor are those who have not yet settled on or been assigned their prescriptions. Nurses do not always bring the pills at the time indicated. And it’s wise to stay alert because they confuse those prescriptions.

No-one can be sure if there really is a shortage of Tambutamide (for diabetes) or Niphedipine (for hypertension). Outside the hospital, an old man with blister packs of pills in hand, offers them for sale.

In this country, it’s better to not get sick, here I’ve seen things that I never imagined” Noelia said, a diabetic patient of ninety in bed no. 34 , Room 5 B. She was admitted last December the eighth for cardiac weakness and fluid accumulation in her lungs. She’s taking her medicine for diabetes because she brought it from home.

The text of the Constitution establishes the right of all to medical care and the duty of the state to guarantee it. Any person dissatisfied with a delivered health service can complain to the Ministry of Health. the Law of Public Health holds this ministry responsible for carrying out measures designed to avoid violations, measures that include disqualifying or barring doctors and nurses who fail to comply with their professional obligations or ethics.

The paths of Amparo and Noelia have crossed in this place. The first was never in the shoes of the patient. The second, her experience by contrast, so different from the news shown on television. As if they had been friends forever, they share their miseries and their joys, passing up the hospital food. Both wish that this were just a bad dream.

Translate by W. Fitzhugh and others

February 27 2012

The Inviolability of the Home / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores

It is six p.m.  Paula is eating dinner in front of the TV, enjoying her favorite cartoons.A All of a sudden there’s a knock on the door so loud that she spills her soda and runs to cling to her mother.

Orisel, her father, annoyed, opens the door and is surprised to see the Sector Chief, with a document in his hands authorizing him to search their home.  Scarcely giving an opportunity to verify the paper, two other officers enter, hunting like hungry wolves after prey.

“But what are you looking for” Orisel asks.

“Something of illicit origin,” replies the officer in charge.

It turns out that, with a frightening superficiality, Orisel has been classified by his Sector Chief in the categories of “offender,” “suspect,” and “dangerous.” Although it seems like a scene from a novel, sequences like this happen often, constituting a clear violation of the constitutional guarantee of the inviolability of the home.

That afternoon, the police seized little Paula’s money-box, as well as a computer, for not having the certificate of ownership.

As regulated in the Criminal Procedure Act, the object of a search warrant must be specific, and not just the usual boilerplate “possession of illegally obtained goods.” Moreover, the mere fact of possessing an object without having its title certificate does not constitute a crime.

The authorities bear the burden of proving that the item in question is of illicit origin, such as the result of another crime, burglary for instance. Otherwise it is presumed that the possessor is the lawful owner.

January 25 2012

The Odyssey of Reporting a Crime in Cuba / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores.

Gabriel got up in the morning. He was shocked to find that when going to shower water was not coming through the rusty pipes of his modest home. It seemed to him that something wasn’t right. He went out onto the patio and followed the course of the piping until he saw the cut in the adjoining house.

His neighbor, with whom he had legal problems about the patio boundaries, had cut the pipe. He stated that he was within his rights to do so. Gabriel went early on to the nearest police station with the aim of reporting his neighbor. There the torturous process began.

Upon arriving, a mother was making a fuss because she didn’t know to which police station her detained son had been moved to. After a while the police, neither willing nor able to give her an answer, took her to an office. Once they were away from the civilians present, they began to give support to the exasperated woman.

By then it was eleven in the morning. The plan to get to work for the evening shift had disintegrated. “I got out of the chair, thinking that the official in charge of the case had forgotten about me. The official hardly raised his eyes from his papers and told me to wait,” Gabriel remarked.

There he stayed seated for three hours, though it almost seemed like centuries. Then came his turn. The young official started to prepare the criminal complaint form when he suspended the act and left the office. Impatient with the delay, Gabriel went over to the file once more. Behind his desk the agent looked up the crime in the Penal Code that the claim could be based on.

The reporting party suggested a crime category: arbitrary exercise of rights. The policeman, offended, claimed he would not file a report because there had been no crime. Unsatisfied, the reporting party asked to speak with his superior. After much insistence he succeeded in filing the complaint. Gabriel returned home exhausted, disappointed, and in a bad mood.

Stories like this are told more often than one would like. As a result, when people are victims of a crime, instead of filing a report they say to themselves with certainty, “Why bother? I’d just lose the whole day doing it and nothing would get resolved.” So says Caridad, victim of a robbery at her house a year ago. Her items have not been recovered.

This rude behavior violates the penal legislation in force regarding criminal complaint filing procedure and the behavior of the police when they have knowledge of a crime. The lack of human sensitivity of the uniformed officers and their poor judicial training stand in the way on the road to justice. Thus, more and more each day, the public loses confidence in the authorities.

Translated by: Adam Cooper

January 6 2012

“That Old Newspaper Yellowed With Age“ / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores Marín

A few days ago I read in Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Party, an article about the end of the debate by the Parliamentary Commission, in whose mind they had analyzed among other things, the effectiveness of the economic model.

What they were saying to the population was “we are working for…, we are analyzing…, we are satisfactorily completing…”

To summarize, all of the Commissions inflated in one way or another, efficiency; and those that did not meet some parameter, they justified with those empty slogans which we have become accustomed to — that they work to achieve the development of the country and the satisfaction of the people.

A few days ago, dusting off memories, my grandmother found an edition of Granma dated Wednesday, July 12, 1989. It was yellow with age. She had saved it as though it were a relic. I was just a girl back then.

The first thing that surprised me about that old edition of Granma was the size of the publication (twice what it is today). Aside from that, on its first page it talked about the subjects that were to be debated during the 5th National Assembly. From that day forth the subjects of construction, public services and worker protections were all on the table.

Moving forward to the present, the failure is evident. The housing situation is precarious; the shortage of building materials; public services in decline; and don’t even talk about the protection of the workers, when today we’re all threatened by the era of “availability”, which is simply a word that tries to put lipstick on what I prefer to call “unemployment.”

So I ask myself, do I have to wait another 20 years to read another edition of Granma which will capture the same thing?

Translated by: Hank

December 6 2011