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

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

Appeal against the arrest of graffiti artist El Sexto rejected; prisoner transferred to Valle Grande / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 7 January 2015 — The graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, remains imprisoned in Valle Grande prison after authorities rejected the habeas corpus appeal presented by the Cubalex organization, led by independent counsel Laritza Diversent.

The appeal denounced the “arbitrary detention” of El Sexto which took place when he led two pigs, named Fidel and Raul, to stage a performance in Havana’s Central Park on 26 December. The graffiti artist is accused of “insult.”

Diversent explained to Diario de Cuba this Wednesday that the authorities rejected the appeal “with very subtle arguments” and hid behind an assertion that there was “no legal basis” to consider the arrest as “illegal.”

The independent counsel recalled that her appeal did not cite the detention as illegal but “arbitrary.” Likewise, in her demand she specified that the names of pigs, Fidel and Raul, were “common” and that authorities had to “accept criticism.”

For now, according to independent counsel, there is still no trial date and she hopes that there will be a change of custody, because the events in which El Sexto is involved are a “misdemeanor.”

Also, Diversent said that she had sent information to international bodies so that they will speak out on the situation of graffiti artist.

An Independent Legal Group Files a Habeas Corpus Petition on behalf of El Sexto / 14ymedio

The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (Luz Escobar)

The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (Luz Escobar)

14YMEDIO, Havana, 29 December 2014 — On Monday, the independent group CubaLex filed a petition for habeas corpus in the case of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. In a document addressed to the Provincial Tribunal of Hanvana, the lawyers urge that the arrestee’s rights be respected and also that he be permitted a proper defense. Police have informed the relatives of the prisoner that all trials scheduled for the upcoming days, including that of the artist initially scheduled for next Wednesday, the last day of 2014, are delayed until the new year.

El Sexto was arrested December 25 shortly before carrying out a performance which consisted of releasing two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul” in a public square. He is charged with contempt. Continue reading

New Reforms to Emigration Policy? / Laritza Diversent

Although recent legislative changes to immigration laws in Cuba represent a step forward, they still retain aspects that are political and restrictive in nature and in violation of the right to free movement.

The changes to immigration regulations do improve the legal wording and drop any reference to entry and/or exit permits and to the letter of invitation, which had been a tacit acknowledgement of Cubans’ inability to travel from an economic point of view.

In practice the situation remains the same. The requirements of most of foreign embassies located on the island and the high fees charged for travel documents, which must be paid in hard currency, make the possibility of traveling overseas an impossible dream for most Cubans.

However, new policies have been put into effect and new categories have been created. In residential real estate, for example, guarantees are now being offered to foreign residents and their families as well as to owners and renters of real estate on the island.

The state is clearly focusing on sectors with economic potential: foreigners and emigres. The latter are being given the opportunity to reclaim a residence on the island and with it the right to take part in elections, become self-employed, buy cars and homes, etc.

However, the possibility that the Ministry of the Interior might grant this right to Cubans living overseas — to people not physically living in the country — no doubt means that it will choose which emigres shall and shall not regain their rights.

16 June 2014

What Can an Independent Lawyer do in Cuba? / Laritza Diversent

In Cuba, professionals can’t work for themselves in the specialty in which they graduate. Legal counseling and consulting are not recognized as self-employed activities, the only actions that a lawyer can perform independently. The few that make this decision have to do it for free.

It’s also difficult to form an autonomous association. The red tape required to legalize a non-profit organization assures that the State has absolute control over it.

To these limitations economic dependence is also added. The lawyer who doesn’t work for the State doesn’t earn anything. In order to survive, in a system where the economic crisis is permanent, independent lawyers collect extra honoraria, even when the regulation on the practice of advocacy, among other causes, considers it a serious shortcoming to receive honoraria that are not established or are better than those officially approved, whether in cash or in kind. A double morality is imposed by these conditions on the practice of advocacy in Cuba, and with it comes total submission to the system.

See Artículo 59.3 inciso c, Resolución No. 142/84 “Regulation on the practice of Advocacy and the National Organization of Collective Law Firms.”

From Jurisconsulto de Cuba, by Laritza Diversent

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 June 2014

Will a Complaint Be Enough to Defend Our Rights? / Laritza Diversent

According to international legal instruments, “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals to be protected from acts violating their fundamental rights granted them by the constitution or by law.”

No national competent institution regarding the promotion and protection of human rights is recognized within the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba[1]. The Cuban government considers that such an institution is not an identified need for the people of Cuba, based on their willingness to continue to build a society that guarantees all justice[2].

According to the Cuban government, the state has a complex and effective inter-institutional system, which includes the participation of NGOs, in order to receive, transact and respond to any complaint or request made by individuals or groups, concerning the enjoyment of any human right.

The system provides for the reception of complaints, mandatory responses but no restitution if it was proven, and their transmission through the courts. The term to respond is too long and doesn’t provide for an exception for urgent cases or for irreparable damages.

In practice, none of them will go deep into the investigation of the case to verify alleged violations. Nevertheless, according to the government “this system has proven effective in practice and has the capacity to respond to the interests, complaints and denunciations of alleged human rights violations”.

Learn about the state bodies that intervene in this system and the obligations they have on: “National Institutions for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights”, in the legal Cuban system?

[1] Information brochure No. 19 of the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, “National Institution for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights”

[2] Report of the working group for the Universal Periodic Review – Cuba, Council of Human Rights, 2009

Translated by: Michaela Klicnikova

11 June 2014

Manual of Rights and Duties / Laritza Diversent

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 11.03.01 PMMost Cuban citizens do not know the legal system in force on the Island, and the procedures they must follow to exercise a certain legal action, be it a civil, penal, administrative, family matter, etc., principally those that relate to their civil and political rights. Frequently they are victims of the arbitrary and selective application of the law.

With respect to Cubalex — the Center for Legal Information — tries to expand the pro bono representation and legal analysis available in Cuba, as well as the capacity for self-defense by dissidents, human rights activists and citizens who have no apparent political motivations, living inside or outside the national territory.

Cubalex offers its clients detailed information about the Cuban legal system, the legal the legal rules that apply to their case and the procedures to be followed in response to government, regional or international institutions.

The Manual of Rights and Duties / on-line, offers information about the ways in which Cubans can defend their rights as citizens facing an arrest, official summons, and search of their homes.

8 March 2014

Inmate Dies in Havana Jail, Possibly From Cholera / Laritza Diversent

19-carcel-1-300x200HAVANA, Cuba , September 18, 2013 , www.cubanet.org.- For approximately 15 days, several prisoners complained about cholera cases within the Combinado del Este prison in Havana. So far the authorities of the Ministry of Public Health have not reported anything.

Pedro Pablo de Armas Carrero, an inmate who leads a movement called Inner Reality from Prison (RIDP) ,created on April 9, 2013, in memory of all prisoners dead from hunger strikes in Cuban prisons, told this reporter that on Tuesday, September 17, between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning, the inmate Iyamil Garcia Benitez, 38, from the town of Parraga, in Arroyo Naranjo, died in that prison.

Armas Carracedo adds that, when his cellmates asked the guards to help the sick man, he was already dehydrated and vomiting blood. He also says that Garcia Benitez Garcia suffered from chronic ulcers.

carcel-2-300x221According to medical investigator Yasser Rojas, the cause of death of the prisoner may have been hypovolemic shock. The clinical picture could be complicated both by the bleeding as well as by the dehydration caused by diarrhea, a symptom of cholera.

According to information received from the prison, on 1 September 14 cases of cholera had been declared among the inmates. Ten of the contaminated were under observation in the center’s center, and four had been referred to outside hospitals.

Although casual contact with cholera-infected people is not a risk for becoming ill, in places where there is poor sanitation and overcrowding, as in Cuban prisons, the disease presents as an epidemic. The pandemic, when serious, is characterized by profoundly watery diarrhea that can lead to dehydration.

The inmates at Combinado del Este prison complain that the roofs leak from the sanitary sewer pipes. The leaks cause dampness in the 12 by 36 foot cells, where up to 36 prisoners live crammed together. The cisterns are totally contaminated by all kinds of insects and rodents. Inmates have to store water in jars and buckets. The prison was built in 1966 and has not had any major repairs.

From Cubanet

18 September 2013

Laritza Diversent Reports from Geneva / Laritza Diversent

Photo: In the background on the right, Laritza Diversent and Yaremis Flores

Introduction by Tania Quintero

On December 10, 2010, without resources, publicity, or fanfare, attorney and freelance journalist Laritza Diversent founded a modest office in her home to provide free, independent advice to Cubans and foreigners on national and international legal issues and human rights. She established the Cubalex Legal Information Center. Over time she was joined by other lawyers, such as Yaremis Flores and her husband Veizant Boloy. These three young people are of Afro-Cuban origin and humble backgrounds. Cubalex also investigates and reports to international and regional organizations regarding individual complaints of human-rights violations on the island. It is located at the corner of 169 Lindero and Angeles, El Calvario, Havana, Cuba 13900. Telephone: (0053) 5-241 5948 (Laritza’s cell). Email: centrocubalex@gmail.com Any help is welcome.

On Cubanet you can read the two reports presented by Cubalex in Geneva, at the 55th meeting of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which on July 8 and 9 was dedicated to analyzing the situation of Cuban women. The following is the report of Laritza Diversent.

Report from Laritza Diversent

Cubalex presented a “shadow” (alternative) report to CEDAW. Yaremis Flores and I, representing the Cubalex office, participated in the meeting of the experts with NGOs from the countries that were studied at the 55th session, including Cuba.

On Saturday, July 6, we traveled to Switzerland, coincidentally sharing the flight with some members of the official Cuban delegation that participated in the examination. Upon arrival at the airport in Geneva, there were other members of the delegation. One of them, after talking on the phone and looking at us repeatedly while we were waiting for our luggage, came over and took our photo without our permission.

He said it was “so we would look beautiful in the press” and sarcastically welcomed us to Geneva. We told him we were prepared to be photographed by State Security. Then he said he was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that he had studied at the Law School, had graduated in 2004, and knew us both. A pity that we didn’t remember him. If he publishes our photo, we will post his, when giving messages to the members of the Cuban delegation.

On Monday the 8th we turned up early at the United Nations headquarters for the process of accreditation; we had previously requested this and had received confirmation that we were accredited. Yet strangely, our registration did not appear in the database. We had to wait two hours for the confirmation of our accreditation.

After verifying the location of the private meeting with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we made sure to contact the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), an NGO that organizes the private meetings between the Committee and NGOs from the countries that are being examined, to confirm our presence.

Representatives of this organization were surprised that an NGO based in the island presented a report critical of the situation of Cuban women, because the rest of the national organizations, including the National Union of Jurists, and the Cuban Association for Animal Production, supported the state report.

Earlier that morning, NGOs recognized by the Cuban government had presented themselves there to confirm their participation. Strangely, they asked if there would be other participants. Until then, IWRAW was not aware of our presence in Geneva.

We returned to the room where the meeting would take place and found the supposed lawyer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We then learned that our presence had caused problems in the Permanent Mission of Cuba in Geneva. They thought we were going to pull out posters and yell anti-government slogans.

As a precaution, we stayed in the meeting place and waited until it started, to head off any manipulation or government action. After the presentations, the NGOs recognized by the regime, instead of speaking privately with the Committee about the problems of Cuban women, devoted their efforts to discrediting us.

They claimed that Cubalex consisted of only five members, who responded to the interests of the United States, a country which for more than 50 years had imposed a “blockade,” the main cause of violence and discrimination against women in Cuba. They also said that our report lacked objectivity, had little technical rigor, and manipulated the information.

Among other insults, they categorized us as amateurs. They questioned the financing of our trip, claiming that they had to seek help from UN agencies. The Committee had to ask them to stop their attacks and concentrate on the problems of Cuban women.

But they were unable to answer direct questions from the Committee about prostitution, civil unions, and whether a woman who was a victim of violence could be represented by a lawyer. They sowed confusion and wasted time on political speeches, preventing the Committee from clearing up its doubts on these subjects.

For our part, we raised these issues, which we consider the most alarming about the situation of women in Cuba. We warned about recent amendments to the Criminal Code and how it might affect women as victims.

The strategy of these government NGOs, both in the private meeting and at the meeting of the Committee with the NGOs from the countries to be examined, was to consume the time allotted to the country, to prevent us from speaking. They repeated everything that was in their reports, supporting the government. A position that was also requested by the Committee.

At the meeting with NGOs in the countries to be considered at the 55th session (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom), one of the experts directed a question to Cubalex, and members of the official Cuban NGOs consumed all the time, and we could not answer. That position was requested by the Committee Chair, who asked us to present additional information in writing, which we did the following day.

Our perception is that the quasi-state NGOs and the Permanent Mission of Cuba in Geneva were nervous and undiplomatic in the face of our unexpected presence. The person who said he was from the Foreign Ministry accosted us at our arrival and tried to intimidate us, hostilely taking our photos without our permission. The NGO officials showed a lack of education and respect.

As independent lawyers based in Havana, we are pleased with our first experience at the United Nations. We were able to take the opportunity to criticize the Cuban government in a setting where it had never been confronted by an NGO that it does not recognize.

Despite the pressures and provocations, we maintained our equanimity, always respecting the place (Palace of the Nations, the main UN headquarters in Geneva), and the honorable members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Before, it was very comfortable for the so-called Cuban NGOs to beguile with many words, without saying anything and without fear of contradiction. The Members of the Committee members felt uncomfortable about the hostility and lack of diplomacy that the Cuban delegation showed toward us.

Translated by: Tomás A.

11 July 2013