I Defend My Lawyer / Rene Gomez Manzano

The lawyer Amelia Rodríguez Cala. Photo by X.

The lawyer Amelia Rodríguez Cala. Photo by Jorge Ignacio Pérez

Havana, Cuba, February 2014 – Last week disturbing news circulated throughout the Cuban dissident community: The top permanent body of the National Organization of Collective Law Firms (ONBC) suspended Amelia Rodríguez Cala—the great defender of accused opponents of the regime—from practicing law for a period of six months.

As the days passed, additional details about the clumsy maneuver surfaced. It became clear that, although they invoked other reasons, what is at the heart of this new hoax is the aim of punishing this learned woman because of her upright stand in the exercise of her profession.

As usual, other pretexts are deployed. They initiated disciplinary proceedings against Amelia based on alleged complaints from two clients. At this point, it is reasonable to suspect that at least one of them is a provocateur in the service of the regime. In any case, a cursory examination of the two complaints demonstrates the weakness of the allegations.

In the case of Caridad Chacón Feraudy, it is claimed that the attorney did not submit her evidence in time. Never mind that a technical assistant breached her obligation of notifying and informing the lawyer about the matter. Nor that Amelia ultimately won the case, as the evidence was presented to better purpose, and accepted and used by the Court.

For her part, Regla Capote Alayo claims that there was no notification to the firm to report the judgment in her case. In this regard, the same lawyer exhibits the documents showing she met with that woman no less than ten times, without the woman giving her the courtesy of bringing this up.

Anyone examining the matter impartially would conclude that Dr. Rodríguez Cala should be exonerated. But the outcome was otherwise, and to ask for objectivity from the ONBC leaders is like expecting mangoes from a pine tree. What has now been decided against Amelia is just the latest link in a long chain of constant acts of harassment against her.

We know of the constant harassment that the leaders of the Carlos III Collective Law Firm have maintained against the jurist. In this, the unit director, Ileana Sandoval Roldán, and the team leader Franklyn Menéndez Tamayo, have distinguished themselves.

They have made her life impossible. In haphazard fashion they constantly question her about supposed deficiencies in her work. This has been repeated in the presence of several different clients, who can attest to the despotic and abusive way that the leaders of that law firm treat the attorney. This is no accident.

Rodríguez Cala has defended over a hundred dissidents. At the time she was excluded from her professional practice, she was representing almost all the independent personalities who are today involved in court cases: Berta Soler, Martha Beatriz Roque, Sonia Garro, Ramón Muñoz, Ángel Santiesteban, Marcelino Abreu Bonora, Reinier Mulet, Miguel Ulloa Guinart Angel Yunier Remon, Gorki Águila.

This reality is what arouses the hatred and ferocity of the mediocre, for whom the barrister’s robe is nothing more than another kind of uniform. In their lawlessness, the repressors from the collective law firms have even exceeded their powers. Decree-Law 81, which regulates the practice of law, empowers them to apply to a member of the organization, among other sanctions, that of “transfer to another position of inferior category or, after proper coordination, to another unit nearby.”

The disjunctive conjunction indicates that they can choose between the two penalties: either give you a lower position, or transfer you to another firm (implying, to work there as a lawyer). In this case, in violation of the law, both measures were applied. As for “nearby,” you only have to realize that they sent her to the distant town of La Lisa.

This week, the attorney plans to fulfill her unjust sanction. In her new position she will earn 300 Cuban pesos per month, just over $12. They want to silence her voice, but her honesty and pure love for the profession place her far above all these dirty tricks. Will she be able to work in La Lisa without difficulties, or should we expect more provocations and acts of harassment against her?

We’re waiting on the outcome of her situation. Also that of the political prisoners, whose defense, it seems, the regime wants now to be assumed by the docile lawyers that these same “leaders” of the firm have chosen. As for Amelia, I’ll keep myself informed, not only because she is a colleague who has worn the robe with dignity, but also—and now on a more personal level—because she was my advocate during my second political imprisonment.

Cubanet, 25 February 2014,

Translated by Tomás A. and José S.