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

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

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 “Police Burst into Cubalex Headquarters / 14ymedio”

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.

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US. Continue reading “The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti Spiritus province. “The first time they turned me away at the Miami airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara.   On this second occasion, they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited entry into Cuba,” she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living abroad pay and that supposedly has “lifelong” validity, although it can be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: “The system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back,” while they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents. Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012, the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government’s unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. “They do not forgive me for the activism that I carried out within Cuba,” she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and wounded in a struggle. “I tried not to beg for my right but to win it [because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws,” as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

“On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called Tuinucu and jailed us,” she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years. Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who have been denied entry into the country.

“People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don’t denounce these arbitrary situations,” comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. “When we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights, because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human rights violations,” she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not contemplated in Cuban legislation. “It is a discretionary decision by State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and abuses of officials,” opines the jurist.

“They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary decision,” she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents. Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)
Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)

“One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious residency,” said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation, 20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

“This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone,” says attorney Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. “The government has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until recently wasn’t there in effect an express and unconstitutional prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility within the Island? Isn’t that regulated, too?”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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

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 or by telephone at (+53) 7-647-2216 or (+53) 5-241-5948

Follow us on Facebook at

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Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, Continue reading “Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio”

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Black Woman: Double or Triple Discrimination? / Diario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent

The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.
The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent, Havana, 31 July 2015 —In Cuba there is a myth that says that there is no racism here because “all the races and cultures melded together forever in a happy synthesis.”

Nonetheless, in reality, invisibility is on the rise, and a concept of “racial democracies” is maintained.

The invisibility of Afro-descendants’ poverty, along with enduring stereotypes and prejudices, contributes to the perpetuation of historic situations of segregation and exclusion, racism, and racial discrimination. Afro-descendant women, in particular, face major obstacles to the enjoyment and exercise of their rights, be these civil, political, economic, social, or cultural.

Official statistics state that men and women of African heritage on the Island constitute a minority. However, the general perception is that the official information does not reflect reality insofar as the ratio of races is concerned. Continue reading “Black Woman: Double or Triple Discrimination? / Diario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent”

In the 2002 Census, the Cuban population was tabulated at 11,177,743 inhabitants. Of these, 65% were categorized as white, 10.1% as black, and 24.9% as mixed-race. In 2012, there was a reduction in the number of blacks: 9% men, and 8% women. The State admits that this tendency towards reduction can be traced back to 1981, when blacks made up 12% of the population. Presently, they comprise 9.26%.

As of today there is no official information to explain this trend. There are various potential reasons. The first is related to self-identification. There is no “Afro-descendant” option as a Census category, nor are questions asked that would identify the heritage and ethnic membership of the Afro-descendant population.

Official data do not distinguish between ethnicity and race. They are focused on personal identification, based on “skin color,” which provokes social inequalities.

The data-collectors operate totally according to their own judgment, and without surveying the interviewees, because they consider the question of little importance, or “offensive.” What they do not realize is the impact of skin color on the answers.

Meanwhile, the State does not provide public education and consciousness-raising about the categories, which would promote correct self-identification on the part of Afro-descendants, nor does it sensitize the data-collectors about this subject.

Regarding skin color, the Census provides information only as it pertains to gender, age, marital status, residential zone, and working vs. retirement age.

It is impossible to know from the data of the last Census what percentage of professionals in the country are black, and in what region, provinces, municipalities and neighborhoods they are concentrated.

Statistics are fundamental. They paint a picture of the situation and are a way to discern one group among others. Data facilitate the design and adoption of public policies that take into account concrete needs. Without reliable data, without indicators and periodic measurements, it is impossible to make political decisions geared to confronting the problem of discrimination.

The current trend is for the mixed-race population to increase. Between 1981 and 2012, this segment grew by 4.62%, while the black population decreased by 2.74%, and the white by 1.88%

Racial Profiling

How can we identify racial profiling and bias in the criminal-justice system that persist in practice and directly affects the Afro-descendant population, such as the mechanism for selective and discretionary detention and investigation? And how can we develop strategies to eliminate it?

The practice of racial profiling, or the establishment of racial profiles as a “repressive action,” is adopted for supposed reasons of security or public protection, and is based on stereotypes of race, color, ethnicity, language, heritage, religion, nationality or place of birth, or a combination of these factors—and not on objective suspicions. This practice tends to single out in a discriminatory manner individuals or groups who meet erroneous criteria for propensity to certain types of criminal behavior by people with certain characteristics.

The establishment of racial profiles includes the practice by police officers and other law enforcement officials of using race, color, heritage, or national or ethnic origin as a reason to subject people to activities for purposes of investigation, or to determine if they are committing criminal acts.

The Afro-descendant population is more susceptible to being suspected, persecuted, processed and sentenced. Selective detentions of persons of color based on racial profiles, unjustified police surveillance, and negative interactions with the police are common, as are elevated arrest rates and an over-representation of persons of African origin in the criminal justice system.

These circumstances are exacerbated by a lack of information provided to the persons detained by the police (and a lack of self-identification), and because the more individual discretion an agent has in handling a situation, the more he or she relies on stereotypes.

People of color, especially young people, invest vast sums of money in their appearance and dress, so as to avoid negative interactions with security agents. The latter exert more intense control over them than over people with white skin in terms of requiring identification documents, and performing searches and seizures, primarily because of the established “suspicious person” profile: generally young, male and Afro-descendant.

The police maintain the notion of the “suspicious person” and utilize categories constructed on the basis of “intuition,” “experience,” “sense of smell,” or “facial bearing.” There is also labeling done, according to which the harsh living conditions that many black people must face, classifies them as more prone to commit crimes, principally of property.

Access to Justice

The lack of mechanisms for complaint, judicial guarantees, reparation, and the lack of sensitivity of justice personnel (administrative or judicial) in relation to racial discrimination, contributes to the persistence of racism on the Island, deepens the resignation of the discriminated groups to their lot, and perpetuates patterns of segregation and exclusion.

The government does not report complaints or cases of discrimination. This shows how the victims lack knowledge of their rights and confidence in the police and/or judicial authorities, and how insensitive and inattentive these authorities are to instances of discrimination.

Such paucity of records of racial discrimination shows that such cases do not come to the attention of the justice system, nor have they been taken up by the courts, and it denotes the obstacles to legal access and the absence of effective legal guarantees for the dark-skinned population. It is common for the authorities to use inappropriate and discriminatory discourse against these persons.

Regarding criticisms and discriminatory comments, there is a total tolerance for them in the communication media and in recreation centers, where “jokes about blacks” and racist comments are freely bandied about.

There is no judicial recourse for their protection, which results from a process of “resignation in the face of historic and endemic injustice,” being that “there is no devolution of the processes of complaint that implicate a fault of the complainant.”

Afro-descendants’ lack of confidence in the judicial system is influenced by the obstacles they face in accessing the courts to pursue cases of racism: the racist insult, not being framed in the law, remains unpunished in the majority of cases.

Generally speaking, the police refuse to accept and settle these types of claims because they consider them irrelevant. There are, additionally, issues of difficulty in proving such accusations, and lack of adequate investigation, standardized procedures, or guidelines.

This same attitude is replicated at the judicial level, insofar as the judicial authorities do not, as a matter of course, process claims of discrimination, nor are they willing to receive such complaints.

Situation of the Afro-Descendant Woman

Racism in Cuba particularly affects Afro-descendant women, who historically have suffered a triple discrimination based on their sex, extreme poverty, and race. Although this is has been a reality throughout the history of country, during the last 50 years it has been buried under a supposed social equality. The special needs of black women—tied to other factors such as religion or beliefs, health, civil status, age, class, sexual orientation and gender identity—have been totally ignored by State policies, thus feeding contemporary forms of racism and racial prejudice in our society.

Such discrimination impacts Afro-descendant women in a special way. Statistics show that they are even poorer and have fewer possibilities of accessing housing, health care, and education than white men, Afro-descendant men, and non-Afro-descendant women, and even fewer possibilities to attain employment and political participation.

The Afro-descendant community overall lives in the poorest regions, but the weight of discrimination is even greater for women of African heritage because their multiple roles, both within and outside the home, and is not adequately reflected in their social position, employment, and salary. Compared to the rest of the female population, they are notoriously underrepresented in decision-making, such that “in the political sphere, only a miniscule number of Afro-descendant women have been able to obtain positions of power.”

There are no studies that contrast the situation between white women and their Afro-descendant counterparts.

Concrete Cases

Laura Masa: Afro-descendant woman 50 years of age, mother raising a son who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. She has resided in the El Morado district, La Lisa municipality, Havana province, since 1990. Her house, which is in a terrible state of disrepair, has wooden walls, a dirt floor, and an asbestos roof. It consists of one multi-purpose room (bedroom and kitchen), with no toilet, and is in danger of collapsing.

The authorities are aware of her situation, and recommend construction of a dwelling from the ground-up to avoid accidents. She has been requesting help from the State for 25 years. In August 2014, Masa asked the authorities to recognize her as the owner of the land she occupies and provide her with a construction subsidy. So far she has not received a response, and her situation is worsening. Water service is denied her because she does not hold the title to her real estate.

Yurliani Tamayo Martínez: Afro-descendant woman 33 years of age, mother of two daughters. She lives in the 10 de Octubre municipality, inside a school building that is in danger of collapsing, which lacks water and sewer connections, has leakages and broken sewers, and is infested with rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes. She has written to the authorities, but there are no available dwellings and, apparently, there are other, worse cases than hers.

In 2010, a day after Hurricane Gustav passed over the area, she entered the dwelling whose former residents had left the country. Functionaries and police officers tried to lure her out with threats of physical violence. The harassment continued, and Tamayo Martínez feared that if she went outside, her children would be snatched from her to force her to give up the dwelling.

On 9 April 2010, at 4am, she was sleeping with her daughters of 4 years and 1 year of age, respectively. A rumbling frightened the smaller one. They started to scream. The electricity was cut off. A man said, “Open up, it’s your cousin, Noslen.” But Tamayo Martínez does not have a relative by that name. She took her little ones in her arms and tried, in vain, to prevent the intruders from knocking down the door.

Two uniformed policemen entered via the balcony. A plain-clothed man dragged her by one foot, while the others let in an official who tore her girls from her arms, despite the screams. They dragged her by the hair. Upon being immobilized, Tamayo Martínez couldn’t see, but felt a foot pressing down on her head while the men shouted obscenities at her. A hand squeezed her face. She instinctively bit a finger. A blow to her face loosened one of her teeth.

They picked her up from the floor by the handcuffs and took her and her daughters out into the hallway, barefoot and in their underwear. They led them down the stairs and put Tamayo Martínez in a patrol car. A female police officer slapped her while hurling insults. They took off at lightning speed but a few hundred meters away they remembered that they had left the little girls semi-clad in the chill of the dawn. They returned. They hurriedly grabbed the girls and threw them into the car. One fell backward on her little arms, and the other landed face-down. They screamed for their mother between sobs, while the officer yelled that they were under arrest.

After 12 hours they were taken to a doctor. The older of the girls and Tamayo Martínez had contusions. Because they had nowhere to go, the officials threatened Tamayo Martínez that they would take the girls to a home for children without parental protection, and that she would go to prison. Her family had to claim them. They returned to the hospital the next day. The orthopedist diagnosed a fractured elbow and a contusion in her shoulder. Her pains continued, caused by a fracture in the second vertebra where the spinal column connects to the cervical spine–a life-threatening injury.

Yaumara Brown Surit: Afro-descendant woman, 33 years of age. At 6 am on 7 September she was evicted by functionaries of the Municipal Housing Authority, who were accompanied by officers from the National Police. They kicked down the door and evicted her along with her two small children. Violence and bad treatment ensued at the hands of the State functionaries. Brown Surit was arrested along with her children, Sheyla and Maykel Valdivia Brown, 11 and 4 years of age, respectively, who witnessed the arbitrariness of the functionaries from the Housing Authority and the Police. Now, Sheyla does not want to go outside to play for fear of leaving her mother and something happening; she presents symptoms of regression, she awakens in a panic from nightmares, wets herself, and is under psychiatric treatment for anxious adaptive disorder.

Niurka Pérez Carbó: Afro-descendant woman of 60 years of age, suffering from ischemic cardiomyopathy, mother of a prison inmate. On 18 November 2018, she was attacked in the very police station where she tried to stop the detention of her son. The desk clerk struck her with the back of his hand, and then various police officers joined in the attack. They shoved her, dragged her by the hair and arms, beat her on the breasts and neck, and kicked her. One agent pulled on her left arm and caused a fracture of the elbow at the joint.

María Isabel Rodríguez: Mother of a prison inmate who since his adolescence has been a target of unjustified police surveillance, due to various members of his family having been tried in court. Her son was arrested for pre-criminal dangerousness and anti-social conduct for having gone straight home from work every day for three years. The local police authority, unsatisfied with the charges, continued harassing him.

María Isabel Rodríguez told the official that he was a liar and was lacking in professional ethics. He accused her son of calling him corrupt, and this resulted in his arrest. She went with her son and took responsibility for the action, but her son incriminated himself and pleaded for his mother to be left in peace. He was then transported to a prison cell by two agents.

María Isabel Rodríguez tried to stop the agents when Captain Jorge Luiz punched her in the chest, telling her to shut up, and the Section Chief gave her another blow in the same spot. She asked why she was being beaten, being that she had spoken the truth, and that the Section Chief is indeed corrupt. They then charged her with disrespect. When she refused to sign the complaint, they took her hand by force and marked the document with her fingerprint. They put a 1,000-peso bond on her son. She then demanded to file a complaint against the Section Chief for all the mistreatment inflicted on her and her son, but another official asked her if she was crazy, expecting them to “file a complaint against themselves.”

Female, Black, Poor, and… Dissident

Dissidents are, according to the Government, persons of low class. But if a dissident is also Afro-descendant, then she is also troublesome, rude, vulgar and disrespectful of the authorities. Madelaine Lázara Caraballo Betancourt, 45, y Sonia Garro Alfonso, 39, black women who are dissidents, were criminally prosecuted. Both reside in zones where Afro-descendants are the majority.

In both their cases, at the time of arrest, the authorities used excessive force. Both women were labeled “arrogant and problematic” and accused of consorting with persons of low social conduct to “demonstrate against the Government.” So as to stigmatize them, they contextualize the events using obscene phrases and language that is generally not employed in provisional summaries by prosecutors.

For her part, Madelaine Lázara Caraballo Betancourt, a carrier of HIV-AIDS, was tried for public disturbance, disobedience, and resistance to authority. On the afternoon of 1 October 2012, she tried to stop the eviction of her family. Her daughter, with her minor grandchildren, had occupied an abandoned and uninhabitable tenement block in Old Havana. According to the authorities, Caraballo Betancourt began screaming obscenities and hurled a spit gob that “hit the chest” of an official. She hung on to a railing at the entrance to the building. Agents beat her until she let go, causing a trauma to her left shoulder. Madeleine served almost two years in the San José de Las Lajas Penitentiary, a prison in Mayabeque province for HIV-AIDS carriers.


Arrieta, L. C. (15 May 2013). Initial Findings of the Prosecutor Against Lázara Madelaine Caraballo Betancourt. Havana, Cuba.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (5 December 2011). Situation of Afro-descendant Persons in the Americas. Washington D.C., United States of America.

Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (20 January 2010). Periodic Reports Nos. 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18 that the States Parties Should Present in 2007—Republic of Cuba. Reports Presented by the States Parties in Accordance with Article 9 of the Convention. United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (15 December 2011). Periodic Reports Nos. 14 – 18 for Cuba (continuation)- Act resumed in the 2056th session. Examination of reports, observations and information presented by the States Parties in Accordance with Article 9 of the Convention (continuation). United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (2 November 2011). Periodic Reports Nos. 14 – 18 for Cuba- Act resumed in the 2055th session. Examination of reports, observations and information presented by the States Parties by Virtue of Article 9 of the Convention (continuation). United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (8 April 2011). Final Observations of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination- Cuba. Examination of Reports Presented by the States Parties in Accordance with Article 9 of the Convention. United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

National Office of Statistics. (September 2005). Census of Population and Housing-2002. Cuba.

National Office of Statistics. (2013). Census of Population and Housing-2012. Cuba.

Pérez, L. V. (7 August 2013). Provisional Conclusions of the Public Prosecutor against Sonia Garro Alfonso. Havana, Cuba.

Sentence No. 415, Case No. 2018/2010, for Crimes of Attack against Yurleany Tamayo Martínez (Fifth Chamber of the Provincial Criminal Tribunal of Havana, 30 September 2010).

Yeg, L. (21 June 2010). Provisional Conclusions of the Public Prosecutor against Yurleanis Tamayo. Havana, Cuba.


Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cuban Opposition Gathered In Puerto Rico Support Plebiscite For Free Elections / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 – The Cuban National Conference –  involving one hundred activists from 23 organizations from the Island and 32 from exile meeting for three days in Puerto Rico – concluded this Saturday with a document setting forth a common strategy. The Declaration of San Juan emphasizes the need to work “to achieve full freedom for the Cuban people and genuine Rule of Law.”

Among the points of agreement among the participants were the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the repeal of laws that violate fundamental freedoms. The declaration also established as a priority achieving “freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, peaceful demonstration, profession and religion.”

The signers of the Declaration of San Juan made a call to fight for “the participation of all the people in every decision of the nation, the legalization of all political parties, and free and multi-party elections.” During the meeting 30 papers, prepared over the last year, were presented addressing several of the topics that were later reflected in the final document.

The Cuban National Conference urged “work for a campaign for a binding plebiscite in favor of free, fair and plural elections, under democratic conditions, that guarantee the sovereignty of the citizens.” Support for the Agreement for Democracy in Cuba, a document put forward in 1998 by organizations in the diaspora and on the island, was another of the issues agreed to in the final document.

The promotion of the peaceful struggle and “training of pro-democracy activists in the methods of civil disobedience,” is included among the issues to strengthen.

The participants committed to working for the collapse of the “cyber-wall in Cuba and striving so that the internal opposition has the technological resources needed to continue mobilizing the citizenry.” Progress in both aspects will monitored over the coming six months.

The Cuban National Conference, enjoyed the participation of activists such as Guillermo Fariñas, Elizardo Sanchez, Mario Felix Lleonart, Eliecer Avila, Laritza Diversent and Rene Gomez Manzanos. Its realization coincided with the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Cuba.

Cuban Activists Discuss the Diplomatic Normalization with the United States / 14ymedio

Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of "Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism."(14ymedio)
Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism.”(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2015 – Under the title “Diplomatic Normalization and Democratic Normalization,” an even this Monday brought together some 25 Cuban activists of different points of view. The site of the meeting was the “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism” in Old Havana.

The panel in the morning meeting discussed diplomatic normalization with the United States and the political dialog that the Cuban government is holding with the European Union. Specifically, they dealt with “the effects on the generation strategies of Cuban civil society and the democratic opposition.”

The event was attended by dissidents and activists from several organizations, including Juan Antonio Madrazo, Pedro Campos, Laritza Diversent, Felix Navarro, Jorge Olivera, Tania Bruguera, Navid Fernandez, Eroisis Gonzalez, Boris Gonzalez and Lilianne Ruiz, among others.

The meeting took place a few days before the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, will come to Havana to attend the reopening ceremony of the embassy of that country in Cuban territory. So far Kerry’s agenda on the island has not been made public, nor is it known whether it will include a meeting with activists and government opponents.

In Madrid, Cuban Opponents Analyze the Example of the Chilean Transition / Diario de Cuba

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)
Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Madrid, 3 July 2015 — Several opposition figures from the Island attended in training for Cuban leaders in Madrid, from 2-3 July, looking at the Chilean transition, which was organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL), under the coordination of the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other intellectuals.

Casa de America hosted the meeting behind closed doors, focused exclusively on strengthening Cuban civil society. The workshop is part of a continuation of those held in July of last year on the Spanish transition and in March of 2015 on the formation of the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela (MUD).

These events have as an objective, in addition to the formation of Cuban leaders and learning about transitions, to promote and facilitate meeting spaces, coordination and reflection among the participants. The writers Roberto Ampuero and Mauricio Rojas were others invited to join this initiative, with closing remarks on the dialog addressing the convening topic.

Among the Cuban opposition figures were Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. Continue reading “Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio”

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

Laritza Diversent, the Cuban Lawyer who met with Obama / Cubanet, Manuel Guerra Perez

Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)
Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Manual Guerra Perez, Havana, 30 April 2015 — Laritza Diversent is a lawyer and director of the Cubalx Center of Legal Information, an independent office that has offered free legal advice since 2010. She graduated from the University of Havana in Law (2008), she is married and has a 16-year-old son.

What exactly is Cubalex and for what purpose did this project come about?

Cubalex is an office that specializes in human rights issues, focusing on national law and the conventions of international laws, which Cuba supposedly relies on. We try to document violations of Human Rights, but our core business is to provide free legal advice to citizens.

The legal advice is for citizens who are ignorant of the law with regards to disparate issues, topics as diverse as housing, criminal, immigration procedures, in short, the varied issues we face daily. Always in legal terms.

Do you collaborate with lawyers from the collective law firms to represent your clients? Who makes up Cubalex?

Our organization is composed of several lawyers, human rights activists, a medical assistant, paralegal and secretary, here in Havana. We also have offices in Camagüey, Granma and Las Tunas. We received requests from the Isle of Youth and to the East, from Baracoa for example. Continue reading “Laritza Diversent, the Cuban Lawyer who met with Obama / Cubanet, Manuel Guerra Perez”

We do not work with lawyers from the collective law firms, although we do work with other independent lawyers. They don’t allow us to represent our clients in court proceedings, so we have no link with lawyers from collective law firms.

Should Cuba modify the current judicial system?

The Cuban judicial system needs many reforms. Many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not addressed in national legislation. There are no laws to exercise the right to complain, protest, freedom of speech, nor for the protection of women, or people with disabilities.

Cuba has signed many international treaties that have no direct application within the system. The National Assembly (Parliament) has had no interest in legislating on human rights issues. This is a very difficult issue for the government. To date it has not evidenced any intention to provide protection or guarantees for citizens’ rights.

Recently you lost a lot of information from computers in this center

There was a robbery in our office where they stole all the computers, all the mass storage media with all the information of years of work.

It was an intentional theft, with a specific order to take only what contained information. My husband and I were abroad and my son had gone to school.

At that time part of the team was undertaking a training abroad. Inside the house there was valuable equipment that wasn’t stolen. This incident resulted in our being unable to serve the public for a month.

Why are people flocking to Cubalex and not the collective law firms?

I think in collective law firms they don’t give the required attention to their clients. They do not provide the free legal advice they offer and we do.

The lawyers of the collective law firms have a conflict of interest because they act on behalf of an individual and the state at the same time.

The Ministry of Justice has established fees for legal service contract but the lawyers of the collective firms charge extra to try to complement the service they offer. The people who usually come to us are poor and are unable to pay those extra fees a lawyer asks. If a customer does not pay those fees, there is a complete lack of interest and motivation that results in little or no results.

In many cases, lawyers for law firms act more like judges and prosecutors than like defense lawyers. They are also ignorant with regard to Human Rights, which is where we specialize. ”

Cubalex office in Havana (photo by the author)
Cubalex office in Havana (photo by the author)

Cubalex collaborates with international organizations

We collaborate on Human Rights, information and complaints to agencies of the United Nation. With the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, through the provision of injunctions, presenting petitions, hearings. We also have contacts with other international organizations specializing in human rights and other related organizations.

We had to go to these institutions because we are not educated on Human Rights. Although we studied law we were not given adequate training on the subject and so we had to go to these organizations to give us tutorials, information to present strategic litigation at the international level on this issue, as we do the State. If this does not resolve it, then we present them to international organizations. This is the kind of relationship that we have these bodies.

Do you feel satisfied with the work done Cubalex?

We have grown from the legal, personal and cognitive point of view. We have been able to learn more about the concerns of the population, to know what are the main violations toward society. In 2013 we went to the United Nations and participated in report to the Cuban State on the convention on discrimination against women. We have presented reports on people with disabilities, the situation of human rights defenders such as the Ladies in White and independent journalists at hearings of the Inter-American Commission. We want to give a minimum of information to the majority who do not know that Human Rights are violated in Cuba. We live in a society almost closed in terms of information, with limited access to the Internet.

Have Cubalex members been assaulted or harassed by the authorities?

Assaulted, not directly, but they have been visited by the Department of State Security (DSE) members working here. Our lawyers in Eastern Cuba have received a lot of pressure because the authorities say they will not allow a site like we have here. Authorities also increased the smear campaigns in digital media.

We have requested an injunction from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that was given to us to protect our work team. The State must follow the recommendations of the Commission although we know that they do not do so but have responsibilities toward the commission. Therefore we ask for our lives and our personal integrity. Everyone knows that the Law 88 remains in force, it has not been commuted, or suspended, so we fear that they could take any legal action against us.

What are your thoughts on the resumption of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba?

On a personal level I am in favor of this reset because I think it’s the first step to end the conflict. This is a conflict between governments and those who principally suffer are the Cuban people.

On the other hand, the new policy published by the White House on the issue of the private sector, human rights, support for civil society and communications, we still have reservations about, in the sense that there is a legal system of citizen control that prevents this development. Because I believe it is a necessary step does not mean I agree with everything or believe that it will be effective.

It is the responsibility of civil society to find information on these legal restrictions that exist and prevent the politics of goodwill of the United States toward the private sector (which I still insist this sector does not exist in Cuba), Human Rights and civil society, to warn about the dangers could represent, because here there is a blockade of the government against its citizens.

The contact between the two governments has awakened civil society, which sees that change in Cuba is not dependent on any foreign government but on Cubans themselves. We are preparing ourselves, therefore to seek ways to put pressure on the government, if they do not want to talk to us we have to out pressure on them to do so.

Barack Obama meet in Panama (Internet photo)
Barack Obama meet in Panama (Internet photo)

How would you describe VII Summit of the Americas in Panama, where you participated?

In general terms the summit was a positive balance for independent Cuban civil society, and I had the opportunity to participate on an equal footing with others in Latin America. This was very helpful to make it known that there are people in Cuba who think differently than the government, who want democracy and respect for human rights.

Moreover, the Cuban State showed its own nature, violent and intolerant.

Describe your meeting with US President Barack Obama, in the forum of civil society in Panama

“Firstly I should clarify that I didn’t participate in the forum of civil society, as I was not accepted by the Panama NGO that selected the participants.

I was in a private meeting by invitation, where the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua and 13 other leaders of Latin American civil society were also present. There President Barack Obama expressed his support to foster the development of civil society in the region, and invited those present to say in which way they (also there were the the presidents of Uruguay and Costa Rica) could support us and encourage the Latin American civil society. Venezuela and Cuba were the ones who began to offer recommendations because both countries have the most repressive contexts in the entire region. Most agree that civil society must have sources of funding to develop and to carry out their projects.

In my particular case I called attention to the dangers that surround the Cuban legal system with regard to the policy that the US government intends to develop with Cuba on the issue of the private sector, communications and everything else. It is impossible to obtain any financial or material resources through donations or any other kind of help that can be given by current banking regulations within Cuba.

Barack Obama meets with Cuban activists before meeting with Raul Castro

Laritza Diversent and Manual Cuesta Morua in meeting with Barack Obama
Laritza Diversent (3rd from R) and Manual Cuesta Morua (2nd from R) in meeting with Barack Obama

14ymedio biggerEFE, 10 April 2015 – The president of the United States, Barack Obama, met today in Panama with members of the Cuban opposition and civil society leaders from other countries before his anticipated meeting this Saturday with with Cuban president Raul Castro.

After giving a speech at the Forum of Civil Society, Obama attended a round table, closed to the press, with activist and civic leaders from several countries, among them the Cuban opposition members Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Laritza Diversent, according to information provided by the White House.

Also participating in the meeting were the presidents of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, and Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez.

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

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:;

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

Translated by Regina Anavy