Laritza Diversent Petitions Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of Cubans Detained on July 11 / Cubalex

Laritza Diversent

Dear Commission Members:

My name is Laritza Diversent. I am the director of Cubalex.

Working in collaboration with the group Justicia 11J [11 July], we have recorded the detentions of 1,130 people since July 11, 572 of whom remain incarcerated. Several people who have been released report incidents of torture and mistreatment including beatings, verbal assaults, threats of sexual violence and the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners. They were forced to undress and shout slogans in support of the Cuban revolution such as “Viva Fidel” and “Viva Diaz-Canel.”

According to our records, at least thirty-three have contracted Covid-19 since being imprisoned due to deplorable sanitary conditions and overcrowding in jail cells. We are concerned for those detainees with chronic illnesses, such as HIV, who have reported being denied access to medication. We draw your attention to the situation of five people with disabilities, who require regular psychiatric treatment.

Several of the protesters were temporarily subjected to enforced disappearance. Cubalex is aware of forty people about whom the authorities have declined to provide information as to where they were being detained. We have learned of twelve cases in which courts never issued rulings on this serious violation, a practice which is systemic in Cuba and that must be monitored to prevent it from becoming more common and acute.

We are concerned about the invisibility of certain vulnerable social groups who lack information of the status of those being detained and the their family members who are afraid to come forward. Although some of these groups are not the most representative, the repression against them has been disproportionate so as to have a deterrent continue reading

effect on their communities. We note that belonging to civil society groups perceived as critical of the government has been a decisive factor in filing criminal charges that carry severe sentences.

We are concerned about the effects of detention on youths and adolescents. At least 326 are between the ages of 14 and 30. There are 159 who remain behind bars, including two minors under the age of 16 who are in correctional centers. There are eight between the ages of 16 and 18 who are still incarcerated. In these cases, the State has failed to comply with its obligation to apply the standards on justice as they apply to minors.

We have recorded detentions of thirteen people between the ages of 60 and 75, six of whom remain incarcerated, among them the political activists Carlos Manuel Pupo Rodriguez and Felix Navarro, ages sixty-seven and sixty-eight respectively.

We have recorded detentions of 185 women, sixty-one of whom remain incarcerated. We draw your attention to the plight of single mothers whose family situations have not been taken into account, especially those situations in which minors or other relatives depend on these women for special care.

According to data we have obtained, of the cases involving people of African descendant, 24% of detainees were released from prison compared to 40% of white detainees. There are five people who have real or perceived [non-traditional] sexual orientations and/or diverse gender identities.

Equally concerning is the treatment on journalists covering the protests, who were attacked in an attempt to restrict the flow of information. Assaults were reported on eighteen journalists — five women and thirteen men — from eight independent media outlets in several provinces. Most of those who have been released are under ongoing, illegal house arrest, a situation made worse by selective and deliberate denial of access to internet services.

Lastly, we draw your attention to the statutory framework adopted by the government to limit freedom of expression on digital platforms. Legal Decree No. 35, which took effect in response following the July 11 protests, imposes massive restrictions on internet access and forces operators and providers of public telecommunication services to monitor content on their sites. Under these regulations, live broadcast of demonstrations and online calls for public protests can be treated as harmful dissemination, cyber-terrorism, cyber-warfare and social subversion. Thank you.

The article “Laritza Diversent Petitions Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of Cubans Detained on July 11” was first published on Cubalex.

Cuba’s Decree-Law 35/21 is Incompatible with International Standards / Cubalex

(There are no subtitles for this video. Our apologies.)

Presented by Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex, for the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament on September 6, 2021:

Decree Law 35/21 is incompatible with international standards as it indirectly restricts freedom of opinion and expression in the digital context and promotes discrimination based on political opinion or that of another nature and is an assault on the right to equality. Although the State has the right to regular public telecommunication services, in international rights, national sovereignty is not a legitimate motive to restrict the fundamental rights of people subject to its jurisdiction.

These restrictions contradict Articles 8, 40, 41, 47, 54 and 228 in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba and are contrary to the international treaties ratified by the State, which form part of the national legal order and specifically protect freedom of expression. Among these are the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

By virtue of signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, the Cuban State is compelled to protect freedom of expression. Said commitment is confirmed in Article 47 of the Cuban Constitution which recognizes the rights of people to freely develop their personality, and in Article 54, which obliges the State to guarantee freedom of expression, necessary for the enjoyment of human rights, the illegitimate restriction of which assumes a violation of the principles of indivisibility, interdependence and progressiveness of human rights recognized in Article 41.

Read the complete statement [in Spanish] in the following pdf file:

Analisis-DL-35-21-EDITADO

This entry first appeared on Cubalex as “El D-L/21 es una normative incompatible con los estándares internacionales”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

Cuban State Security Threatens to ‘Intercept Laritza Diversent in the US to Try Her in Cuba’

In the image, the lawyer Laritza Diversent, director of the Cubalex legal information center. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 August 2021 – On Monday, Cuban State Security threatened the mother of the director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, who denounced the incident on her social networks and on the web presence of the non-governmental organization of which she is the founder.

“An agent of State Security went to the home of the family of the director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, and threatened her mother because of the work that the organization has been developing,” detailed the official Facebook page of the legal information center which, since the protests of 11th July, and with the help of a group of volunteers, compiles data on the detained and disappeared in a list that exceeds 800 names.

The on-line posting explains that Maricelis Cámbara, 63, “was warned that she herself could be tried for her daughter’s work” in defense of human rights and they threatened to “intercept Laritza Diversent in the United States or another country” to “take her to Cuba” and try her. Cámbara was also asked where Diversent lives in the United States.

“I have been reflecting on this threat and the first thing it shows is that the work that Cubalex is doing annoys them and worries them to the point of going to my mother’s house and threatening continue reading

her to be able talk to me. Direct threats to put her in jail by insinuating that I send her money and she receives it, for example,” Diversent told 14ymedio .

The lawyer said that they also offered her mother “things that they were going to give her” if she collaborated. “My mother is quite calm but I can’t stop worrying about her and she is worried about what may happen to me here in the United States,” she said.

“I think they are trying to send a message of fear so that one is frightened and leaves the work they are doing. I think that those of us who live outside of Cuba are also exposed, although not at the same level of risk as those who are on the island who receive repression directly,” she added.

Diversent is clear and categorical when she affirms that she is not going to abandon the work she does with her team: “We are not going to leave what we are doing, much less now, we are not going to leave the people imprisoned in Cuba alone, I am going to continue supporting them.”

Cubalex has spent years providing free legal advice to Cuban citizens and activists, journalists and opponents who are victims of repression on the island and whose human rights are constantly violated.

A part of the legal team went into exile in May 2017 after State Security carried out a raid on the headquarters of Cubalex where its members, including Diversent, received attacks and threats.

On her networks, Diversent spoke directly to the agent who went to her mother’s house: “You can come find me and take me to a prison in Cuba. I’m waiting for you (…) whatever you are going to do, do it, but starting now.” She also pointed out that she is responsible for her actions and her work and that “bothering” her mother for what she does “is irresponsible and cowardly.”

Laritza Diversent graduated in Law from the University of Havana and later did a Master’s degree in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at the American University Washington College of Law. On the island, the lawyer directed the work of Cubalex for more than six years and now continues to do so from exile.

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Cubalex Lawyers Give Their Opinion on Decree-Law 35, Recently Approved by Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers

Cuban protesters on 11 July2021.

CUBLEX, 7 August 2021 — On August 17, Decree-Law No. 35 (DL35) was published in the Official Gazette: “On Telecommunications, Information and Communication Technologies, and the Use of the Radioelectric Spectrum” and Resolution 105 “National Action Model for the response to Cybersecurity incidents.”

What are the implications of these new rules? Do they criminalize freedom of expression on the internet?

Cubalex shares the opinions of our legal team on the matter:

Laritza Diversent: The state is appealing to its sovereignty in order to restrict human rights. This new legal regulation irrationally restricts freedom of expression. National sovereignty cannot be used as a legitimate basis to restrict human rights, according to international standards. Therefore, the Cuban State’s argument for publishing this decree is not based on international law.

If they are going to act within “legal frameworks in accordance with universal practice in telecommunications,” as the decree says, the decree is not consistent with the international conventions they have signed, nor with the services associated with this instrument, because the services have nothing to do with the content of the publications that could be punishable by applying DL35.

The State has to hunt for other resources to protect its services without the need of falling into rules that penalize freedom of expression, especially in social networks, which is the objective of this new censoring decree, and now with special interest as a result of the protests of #11J (11 July 2021).

Julio Ferrer: It’s worth asking the Council of State, which has resumed the practice of issuing decree-laws (one after the other and without the National Assembly of People’s Power meeting), whether Decree-Law 370 is still in force. The recently issued Decree-Law 35 makes no reference to it. They’ve returned to the nefarious practice of promulgating and continue reading

approving a large number of legal rules to regulate the same subject matter. They prefer to rule on the basis of decrees.

Alain Espinosa: Sovereignty is not violated or put at risk by the exercise of rights inherent to human beings. That is the first manipulation, then above that I see violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which establishes the causes that can lead to a restriction of rights, and then expressly establishes a group of them that  can never be restricted.

Giselle Morfi: This is the whip of free speech. It is a rule focused on State Security and not on the rights of citizens. The Law of Transparency and Access to Information was foreseen in June 2021 in the Cuban Legal Calendar; instead this regulation comes out and the only thing it does is censor.

In a preliminary or superficial analysis, just reading the introductory titles of the decree, we are faced with a stamp of prior censorship, which establishes limits that are too broad and abstract and that go against all international standards of human rights related to freedom of expression and the right to information.

Regulating false or fake news as a crime is very dangerous. For example, let’s remember what’s happened in China and Venezuela, where without concrete evidence of actual harm and with discretionary limits left to the authority that applies the norm, they can sanction any person for “cyberterrorism,” directly undermining freedom of expression without any legitimacy. Decree-law 370 is nothing compared to Decree-Law 35.

Laritza Diversent: According to Article 2 of Decree-Law 35, any form of publication on social networks from Cuba within the category of “telecommunications” could be sanctioned with this rule. They don’t stipulate which are the specific contraventions except those that are highly dangerous. Aside from sovereignty and this broad framework that covers any publication on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook mainly, or even in WhatsApp or Telegram groups, this regulation has complementary legislation that already establishes fines.

From now on we watch with concern that one of the consequences is that arguments from Decree-Law 35 offer the possibility for State institutions to restrict human rights, but we are not only talking about freedom of expression, but also the use of technologies, because there are fines for the importation, use, or possession of certain equipment that today would allow people to have greater access to the Internet. And with it to publish and share more information.

That is, there is not only the part that affects my right to express myself, but it goes further: it would limit the use of devices such as antennas, nano and repeaters that allow greater connectivity on the Island and are essential to exercise the right to information and free expression. They will limit people to consuming the few national television channels and official media, which only broadcast political propaganda. They also prevent the economic development of people who want to expand, grow, or exercise self-employment, since the technological restrictions cut the ability to earn income.

Thus, the State would be justified in continue to persecute other types of economic activities that represent a threat to it. We already see how it constantly carries out operations against certain entrepreneurs such as the so-called “coleros”* for example [people who stand in line for others], in times of pandemic, but there are many other examples in the difficult task of survival of the self-employed in Cuba. One of the questions that we have been asked since the publication of this decree is whether it could be applied retroactively to the protesters of July 11. Laws cannot be applied retroactively, it is a principle of law, only criminal laws can be applied retroactively, as long as it is for the benefit of the accused person.

Alain Espinosa: To the question of whether this and other harmful decrees could be deregistered, we must refer to article 108 of the Constitution that establishes the powers and obligations of the National Assembly and among them is:

e) exercise control of constitutionality. (A subject that has a lot of fabric to cut through in our legislation.)

g) To totally or partially revoke decrees, laws, etc., that contradict the Constitution or the laws. (This is the case with Decree-Law 35 because it is in direct contradiction with article 54 that guarantees freedom of expression).

To this we must add that in Cuba there is no judicial control over  constitutionality — no entity having the last word on declarations of constitutionality for each specific case. And today the new currents of constitutionalism suggest that all the powers and organs of the state are obliged, each in its sphere, to exercise control, not only of constitutionality but also of conventionality [i.e., general acceptance], in direct accordance with international human rights treaties.

Julio Ferrer: Yes, the appropriate legal action against Decree-Law 35 is to urge the Assembly not to ratify it and to declare it unconstitutional.

Cubalex has not been able to unravel all 75 pages of the decree, but for the Hotline on Wednesday the 25th, or the one for tomorrow, August 18, we promise a more in-depth analysis.

The entry “Our lawyers give their opinion on Decree-Law 35, recently approved by the Council of State and the Council of Ministers” was first published in Cubalex.

Translated by Tomás A.

The State is Obliged to Protect Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster / Cubalex

(Adalberto Roque / AFP)

14ymedio biggerCubalex, 1 February 2019 — Social media have revealed the many dangerous situations which have had to be coped with by the victims of the tornado which battered the Cuban capital on the night of 27 January 2019. People have suffered devastating consequences, including loss of life, of their means of subsistence, as well as damaged infrastructure and economic costs.

It is worrying that the Cuban government holds back or obstructs the provision of relief to the most needy when the international community provides humanitarian assistance. In view of this situation, we have decided to respond to this question:

Does the state have a duty to protect its citizens before, during, and after a natural disaster? continue reading

By virtue of current international law, states are the principal agencies with human rights duties and obligations. International law and common law impose three obligations: the duty to respect, the duty to protect, and the duty to obey.

The duty to protect consists in three responsibilities: (1) prevent, (2) react, and (3) rebuild.

These three obligations have equal application and force in relation to dealing with natural disasters. Complying with them is the minimum that citizens expect at the time of confronting a natural disaster. We have the right to be protected before, during, and after a natural disaster.

The duty to prevent in the context of natural disasters translates as the responsibility to alert people that a natural disaster is imminent. That of reacting is the obligation to recognise when it is not possible to deal efficiently with a disaster and, as a result, the obligation to request assistance from other states.

The intervention of other states is essential to enable a state to recover from a catastrophe. Additionally, even when such intervention has not been requested, other states may proceed in order to bring humanitarian aid without being held responsible for any violation of sovereignty of the state which has been affected, solely as and when the intervention is for this purpose only and not as a pretext for the introduction of armed forces into the affected state.

The fact that a state is lacking sufficient resources does not justify violations of human rights, as there is always the opportunity to make use of international relations with other states to combat a humanitarian crisis resulting from natural disasters.

Lastly, the duty to rebuild refers to the responsibility on the part of the state to ensure sustainable reconstruction and restoration.

Following the disaster, the state has the obligation to seek assistance from the United Nations and from other countries to enable short term and long term reconstruction plans; to assure that the areas affected are once again rendered habitable and safe for people.

In earlier times, when human rights were still considered to be an internal matter for each country, the intervention of other states and the international community was resisted.

Nowadays, this attitude has in large part been replaced by a responsibility, in which states are considered to be responsible for the wellbeing of their people. That is to say, the state has the responsibility to protect the population, especially in the face of natural disasters.

The UN Charter obliges its member states to “take measures jointly and separately, in cooperation with the organisation, for the accomplishment of the objectives set out in Art. 55”, which promotes respect for the human rights and fundamental liberties of all persons subject to its jurisdiction, without any form of discrimination.

First published in Cubalex.

 Translated by GH

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Habeas Corpus Proposed in the Constitutional Reform is Ineffective / Cubalex

Habeas Corpus will be elevated to constitutional status

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent — Article 50 of the constitution, as proposed to the National Assembly by the Cuban Communist Party, will recognise Habeas Corpus. This guarantee against illegal arrest was the subject of parliamentary debate. The Deputy for Baracoa in Guantanamo province, Tamayo Mendez, made reference to this precept.

“Any person who is deprived of his liberty,” he read. “Here we are affirming that it was foreseen that someone may be illegally penalised,” he added. “No, not penalised, but illegally deprived of their liberty,” he was corrected by Deputy Jose Luis Toledo Santander, member of the constitutional editing commission. continue reading

“What is being addressed here is the protection of the right of an individual who is deprived of their liberty to due process as established by law. This process exists in the Law of Legal Procedures,” explained Toledo Santander.

Due process” for Habeas Corpus and the authorities’ practices

In effect, Habeas Corpus is regulated in domestic law, but offers no protection against arbitrary detention, nor against enforced disappearance.

For example, one of the “processes established by law” is that of denying Habeas Corpus, if, during the arrest, a “sentence of or order for a limited period of imprisonment” was decreed. Every year, the Cuban state and its agents undertake thousands of arbitrary detentions as a punishment for exercising freedom of expression, meeting and association. 

Additionally, it requires that “the place where the person is held be identified, as well as the official or his agent or the functionary who is holding him.” The government agents employ pseudonyms, wear plain clothes and do not identify themselves. As far as human rights defenders are concerned, they do not complete any detention paperwork, to isolate them and make it impossible to identify their location, opening the door to their enforced disappearance.

The tribunals limit themselves to verifying that the required procedural criminal documentation exists, and reject pleas for habeas corpus, without requiring the police officials to produce the person who has been detained and to explain when and why he was detained. It is unlikely they would agree to an applications for oral hearing.

Awarding constitutional status to a guarantee which does not comply with international standards does not constitute any advance in human rights, and is obviously ineffective.

M.sc. Laritza Diversent

Translated by GH

Without Guarantees of Due Process, Detentions Always Appear Unjust / Cubalex

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent, 3 August 2018 — The constitutional reform will recognise Habeas Corpus, as it is applied in domestic law. An obviously ineffective procedure. It does not provide protection against arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance. Nor does it comply with international standards in terms of due process.

“No-one who is imprisoned considers that it is in order,” was  José Luis Toledo Santander’s cynical comment. “Everyone detained by the police considers himself innocent and to have been unfairly detained,” adds the deputy and member of the editing commission of the constitutional text. “That implies,” he concludes, “that every person detained by the police would be able to seek a writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Abuse of power and excess of discretional authority

The agents of police and security (Ministry of the Interior) have minimal training and excessive authority. After being recruited and a 6-month course, they are ready to exercise power and enjoy the impunity guaranteed by their uniform and their licence. continue reading

Whether on the orders of a superior, personal dislike, or a battle for territorial control — it’s all the same. No-one who has a business escapes the payment of tribute to the authorities. The evidence presented and declarations to a tribunal, whether true or not, carry more weight than the law itself.

In such circumstances, it is logical that everyone detained by the police considers himself unfairly detained. That’s the logic in a country where guarantees of due process do not exist.

Do you know that the police can interpret and apply, acting as judges, 27% of the offences in the Penal Code?

Without remission of the case to a tribunal, they are authorised to judge it, and apply a fine. When they exercise this power, they do not inform the detainees that, in the event of their accepting it, they are recognising their guilt (loss of the presumption of innocence) and abandoning the right to be judged by a tribunal.

Absence of independent, impartial tribunals

Do you know that the Committee against Enforced Disappearance (an office of the United Nations) is concerned that the subordination of the tribunals to the National Assembly and the Council of State affects the independance of the judiciary?

Yes, judges are subject to all types of political influence. Both of these state organs are charged with appointing, promoting, suspending, and dismissing them. A judge can be dismissed from a tribunal, for not being willing to join the Cuban Communist Party, which subjects them to conflicts of interest and intimidation.

Total absence of the right to defence and therefore the presumption of innocence

Did you know that the national tribunals only accept legal service contracts issued by the Collective Law Firms (Legal practices supervised by the Ministry of Justice)?

Yes, in practice they are obliged to contract defence lawyers from an organisation which is unique in the country and ideologically committed to the political group holding power in the country. This situation affects the right to freely select your lawyer.

Nor are the ONBC lawyers are not independent. They are subject to interference, pressure and undue influence from the authorities who intervene in the penal process, which prevents them from performing dilligently and fearlessly, acting against the interests of their clients.

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

In Debate: Replies to Doubts About Decree 348/2018 / Cubalex, Laritza Diversent

Together we can. No to Decree 349. A law that makes art a crime..

What are “artistic services?”

Cubalex, 2 August 2018 — Artistic services are those offered by government organisations authorised to contract artistic workers. Artistic services may be requested from these entities. As I understand it, they are like agencies which employ artists or groups of artists. An individual or a business contracts the service, and pays the organisatioon. Then, the agency pays the artist. (Resolution 44/2014 “Regulations governing work arrangements for those whose work is of an artistic nature.”)

Is this terminology only used for people who are paid for their work as artists, or is it for all artists who show up in a place, if it is an independent place, like ours, where they aren’t paid to turn up?

According to Resolution 54/2014 “Regulations governing artistic work evaluation”, AN ARTIST is a person who interprets or carries out one or several works in accordance with each appearance and speciality. continue reading

To work professionally in each artistic field, a work evaluation is essential, apart from those exceptions established by the employment legislation in force for this sector (Article 11)

The artistic evaluation is confirmed by way of the issuing of the appropriate Evaluation Certificate, and is independently authorised for each speciality or each artistic position on an individual basis for each artist, and for groups of more than one artist, without prejudice to the individual pay guarantee (Article 10)

The regulation imposed by Decree 349/2018: One may not work as an artist, or carry out artistic activities without government authorisation

In accordance with Decree 349/2018, only state-authorised artists can offer artistic services, on an individual basis or on behalf of a group, and payment for work carried out is only permitted for such people.

Only people with authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic  position or occupation can offer artistic services, on condition that they have a signed “established contract”, with a state institution which is authorised to contract artists and to approve their offer of artistic services.

If an artist provides his services without the authority of an employing organisation which contracts with him, then an offence is committed and he will be fined. Additionally, any instruments, equipment, accessories or other goods may be seized, the performance or relevant screening immediately cancelled, any authorisation to perform independently may be cancelled, and the employing organisation may apply disciplinary measures.

Do you know where the Cuban cultural policy may be found?

The Cuban cultural policy should be all the regulations imposed by the Ministry of Culture, a government entity of the Central Government Administration of the Republic of Cuba, charged with the direction, guidance, control and execution, within its operational ambit, of the cultural policy of the state and Cuban government, in order to guarantee the defence, preservation and enrichment of the cultural heritage of the Cuban nation. The Mincult (Ministry of Culture) has a website where the cultural policy is explained.

M.sc Laritza Diversent, Executive Director of Cubalex

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH

‘Cuban civil society fails to utilize the mechanisms to report human rights violations’

Attorney Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 30 January 2018 — Forced into exile by the Cuban regime, the Legal Information Center (Cubalex) has undergone a “radical and painful change”. However, reorganized in the USA, it aims to continue along the project’s same line: “to internationally denounce the Cuban State for its human rights violations, and spotlight the situation in the country. ”

Director Laritza Diversent spoke with DIARIO DE CUBA about some aspects of the organization’s work, what it has left behind, and, above all, the reasons for the lines it has drawn and the procedures they will use under the new circumstances.

How has Cubalex reorganized in exile?

Cubalex registered in the state of Tennessee in the USA. We currently have a Board of Directors that governs the organization. The team, which includes me, works online because we live in different states, mostly in Pennsylvania.

What has it meant for the members of Cubalex to have to leave the Island?

It was difficult to accept that you have to start a new life, and adapt to new customs and idiosyncrasies. Everything is missed, especially the aroma of coffee on the terrace where we met up almost every morning to begin our work, and working in the same physical space, and personally receiving those who visited us at the office in Cuba. Today we see each other on a screen. It has been a radical, difficult and painful change. All of us have shed tears of nostalgia. continue reading

Have your relatives suffered reprisals in Cuba?

As long as we continue doing the same work as in Cuba, which is vexing for the Government, and it continues to yield results, as we appeal to international human rights organizations and shine a light on the situation in the country, our relatives in Cuba will be at risk. It is one of the forms of punishment that the regime wields best. We have to recognize it. They are effective. We are powerless in this regard.

What difficulties does having to work from outside Cuba entail?

Obtaining the resources to keep the organization running and including the entire Cubalex team that left Cuba as part of the staff. On another front, making the activists in Cuba understand the importance of reporting, at the international level, the human rights violations of which they are victims, which is a difficulty that we had in Cuba. Thus far we have not managed for many to report the repression to which they are subjected. The record of complaints lodged with international organizations for human rights violations by the Cuban government is paltry.

Has the project had to modify its objectives given this new scenario?

Not yet. We changed the population group that the organization focused on. Between 2011 and 2015 54.85% of the cases we dealt with were related to criminal matters brought to us by persons deprived of their freedom. In 2016, up until the time that our headquarters was searched, 61% of the requests for our services were made by inmates in prisons, 48% of whom presented their cases directly at our offices, through a family member, generally mothers.

After leaving the country, we cannot continue providing counsel in a personalized way, at least not directly. The deficient Internet access on the Island makes it unlikely that we can keep up this pace of work. We are currently focused on monitoring and following up on activists at risk. But, as I said before, it is a difficult task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance on our part.

In Cuba, we assisted 982 human rights activists, members of different civil society organizations who claimed to be victims of arbitrary short-term arrests, repudiation rallies, official citations, as well as searches in their homes. We conducted 96 training workshops for 613 activists in eight provinces of the country, most of them in the east. We also provided legal advice to activists in an individualized manner, but the statistics compiled by our office show that of the vulnerable groups at risk, they are those who least turned to us.

One of the main struggles with activists in Cuba is to get them to follow our recommendations to document cases of violations of their rights, which is essential to carrying out our work at the international level. We are aware of the ignorance in Cuban civil society of the mechanisms for reporting human rights violations at the domestic and international levels. This prevents the development of strategies to mitigate the risks and threats to the activities they carry out.

How is the activists’ lack of awareness of complaint mechanisms, and their importance, evidenced?

In August of 2016 Cubalex prepared basic human rights courses to teach activists from partner organizations. We formally invited 13 organizations, but only 10 responded, of which 7 appointed a representative to attend the course. Then 6 confirmed they would appear, but the course was ultimately attended by 3. This means that there is not only ignorance, but also a lack of interest.

Cubalex has observed that most activists use social media as their favorite means of reporting violations of their rights. At the beginning of 2017 we surveyed 106 activists, and 84.91% said that they defended their rights through this channel. We also monitored the social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) of 72 activists or members of at least 9 organizations operating informally in the country. The information was insufficient to monitor the specific situation and document human rights violations. Example: the names of the victims of the acts committed were not mentioned, who committed them, or when.

Social media, despite being the most used via by activists to denounce human rights violations and get the public’s attention, is not the appropriate way to attract that of international human rights organizations capable of pressuring the Government. These organizations do not use social media as a source of information. It is necessary to document the violations, draft a report, and send it to these institutions. Complaints on the social networks must be maintained, while improving posting strategies to provide more information about the incidents reported, but it should not be the main tool.

How do you get information from inside Cuba?

Directly from the victims, by telephone and by email. We use social media to identify activists at risk or to report violations occurring at the moment. If the person does not offer data to locate him, we inquire through other activists until coming into direct contact with the victim.

What is the situation like for those members of Cubalex who remained in Cuba?

They are awaiting a final decision by the US Government in the political asylum case. We keep abreast of the status of each one, especially Julio Ferrer. We presented his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests while we were still in Cuba, and it worked. He is currently free, although he is not out of danger.

What has happened to the cases that Cubalex was handling? Did the regime’s action have any consequences for those people?

For now, we don’t know. The prohibitive prices of the Internet and telephone calls off the island make it impossible for people to contact us. We, from outside, also have economic restrictions on making calls to Cuba and following up on them. Our long-term plans including creating strategies and conditions so that the population, especially the poor, have access to a free legal advice service.

What lines of work is Cubalex currently pursuing?

We are following the same line. Reporting human rights violations by the Cuban State, and spotlighting the situation in the country. The filing of complaints in accordance with special United Nations procedures is one of the few tools we have to report human rights violations in the country, and the only one that the State officially reacts to. Between 2011 and 2016 the Government received 24 communications from UN bodies, and responded to 21 of them. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, however, reported 44,604 acts of harassment during the same period. Cubalex intends to change this reality.

Cubalex is working on another report on violence against women in Cuba. Why is it necessary to revisit this issue?

In general, women in Cuba, although they have access to education, health, employment, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work, continue to do most of the work at home, and to raise their children, despite the fact that most of them work outside the home too. Even so, Havana does boast high gender standards compared to other countries in Latin America. The Cuban State subscribes to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, but to date there is no gender law in the country that protects women from violence, and there are no shelters for victims of this scourge.

Added to this phenomenon is institutionalized discrimination, especially through criminal law. For example, the designation of people as “pre-criminal social hazards,” which allows the authorities to categorize and punish people for what they are, and not for what they do, perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes of a racial nature, based on gender, socioeconomic level, marginality, lifestyle, ideology and political opinion.

The “pre-criminal social hazard” measure, in addition to being selective and discriminatory, is an institutionalized form of violence against women. It is wielded against girls between 16 and 18 years of age who engage in prostitution, an activity considered by the authorities to be a socially reprehensible vice. Prostitution is not a crime, but the Government says it “does not tolerate it”. It represses those offering these services, but not those soliciting them, most of whom are tourists.

Many of the women offering sexual services migrate from rural to tourist areas in search of better economic opportunities. They grow more vulnerable when they are forced to submit to the sexual exploitation of pimps, to shield themselves from police repression and corruption. The “pre-criminal hazard” designation linked to prostitution is also used against trans women and other members of the LGBTI community.

Discrimination and marginalization on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation is a widespread phenomenon, but is overlooked even by civil society organizations that describe themselves as defenders of human rights, and whose members are also victims of institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination. This legal mechanism is also used to harass, threaten and prosecute human rights activists, who are stigmatized as “subversives and terrorists”.

Given this situation, what particularities do cases like that of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who are systematically repressed, feature?

In the case of the Ladies in White, this violence acquires a special significance. They are victims of acts of torture and degrading treatment that places their lives in danger. In 2017 the organization was the target of 54.10% of the acts of harassment reported on the social networks and in other media. Its members constituted 45% of female human rights activists who were victims of repression. They suffered 53 violent attacks, which in 94.34% of the cases occurred during arrests.

The death of Ada María López Canino, a member of the organization, on December 12, 2017, is a wake-up call. In 2016 and 2017 she was arrested 81 times. She received several beatings during operations and acts of repudiation, and she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, the result of cranial traumas inflicted by blows to the head.

This brain injury produces multiple symptoms, including strong and constant headaches, which do not go away by themselves. They can lead to complications over time and cause permanent brain damage. It is also aggravated by repetitive head trauma. Cubalex knows of other Ladies in White with similar symptoms.

The Ladies in White are part of a social group that is doubly vulnerable: as women and as defenders of human rights. They suffer from aggravated forms of discrimination and violence, not only from the authorities, but also from civil society organizations themselves, which find it difficult to accept women’s leadership capacities. However, this organization does not specifically and directly address gender issues. On the contrary, they defend and fight for the rights of political prisoners.

Note: Article taken from Diario de Cuba’s English site which can be viewed here.

Cubalex Identifies State Security Agent Who Led 2016 Assault on its Headquarters

Beatrix Peña de la O led the illegal assault on the headquarters of Cubalex, an independent legal aid organization, in 2016

Today, the attorney Laritza Diversent posted on her Twitter account a photo of the State Security agent who led the illegal assault on her legal aid organization in Havana more than two years ago.

An article from 14ymedio reported the assault carried out in September of 2016: continue reading

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… the police burst into the site which is also the home of independent attorney Laritza Diversent… 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.

The assault was captured on video from outside the site, and recounted in detail, later, by Diversent, the center’s director.

In her tweets today, Diversent responded to the assault and looked to the future of Cuba.

This search warrant was illegal.
Cubalex warns that there will be “a tomorrow” and those who illegally repressed Cuban citizens will be held accountable for their actions.

Justice, truth… and a different future.

‘Cuban civil society fails to utilize the mechanisms to report human rights violations’

Lartiza Diversent, Director of Cubalex. (DDC)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 30 January 2018 — Forced into exile by the Cuban regime, the Legal Information Center (Cubalex) has undergone a “radical and painful change”. However, reorganized in the USA, it aims to continue along the project’s same line: “to internationally denounce the Cuban State for its human rights violations, and spotlight the situation in the country. ”

Director Laritza Diversent spoke with DIARIO DE CUBA about some aspects of the organization’s work, what it has left behind, and, above all, the reasons for the lines it has drawn and the procedures they will use under the new circumstances. continue reading

How has Cubalex reorganized in exile?

Cubalex registered in the state of Tennessee in the USA. We currently have a Board of Directors that governs the organization. The team, which includes me, works online because we live in different states, mostly in Pennsylvania.

What has it meant for the members of Cubalex to have to leave the Island?

It was difficult to accept that you have to start a new life, and adapt to new customs and idiosyncrasies. Everything is missed, especially the aroma of coffee on the terrace where we met up almost every morning to begin our work, and working in the same physical space, and personally receiving those who visited us at the office in Cuba. Today we see each other on a screen. It has been a radical, difficult and painful change. All of us have shed tears of nostalgia.

Have your relatives suffered reprisals in Cuba?

As long as we continue doing the same work as in Cuba, which is vexing for the Government, and it continues to yield results, as we appeal to international human rights organizations and shine a light on the situation in the country, our relatives in Cuba will be at risk. It is one of the forms of punishment that the regime wields best. We have to recognize it. They are effective. We are powerless in this regard.

What difficulties does having to work from outside Cuba entail?

Obtaining the resources to keep the organization running and including the entire Cubalex team that left Cuba as part of the staff. On another front, making the activists in Cuba understand the importance of reporting, at the international level, the human rights violations of which they are victims, which is a difficulty that we had in Cuba. Thus far we have not managed for many to report the repression to which they are subjected. The record of complaints lodged with international organizations for human rights violations by the Cuban government is paltry.

Has the project had to modify its objectives given this new scenario?

Not yet. We changed the population group that the organization focused on. Between 2011 and 2015 54.85% of the cases we dealt with were related to criminal matters brought to us by persons deprived of their freedom. In 2016, up until the time that our headquarters was searched, 61% of the requests for our services were made by inmates in prisons, 48% of whom presented their cases directly at our offices, through a family member, generally mothers.

After leaving the country, we cannot continue providing counsel in a personalized way, at least not directly. The deficient Internet access on the Island makes it unlikely that we can keep up this pace of work. We are currently focused on monitoring and following up on activists at risk. But, as I said before, it is a difficult task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance on our part.

In Cuba, we assisted 982 human rights activists, members of different civil society organizations who claimed to be victims of arbitrary short-term arrests, repudiation rallies, official citations, as well as searches in their homes. We conducted 96 training workshops for 613 activists in eight provinces of the country, most of them in the east. We also provided legal advice to activists in an individualized manner, but the statistics compiled by our office show that of the vulnerable groups at risk, they are those who least turned to us.

One of the main struggles with activists in Cuba is to get them to follow our recommendations to document cases of violations of their rights, which is essential to carrying out our work at the international level. We are aware of the ignorance in Cuban civil society of the mechanisms for reporting human rights violations at the domestic and international levels. This prevents the development of strategies to mitigate the risks and threats to the activities they carry out.

How is the activists’ lack of awareness of complaint mechanisms, and their importance, evidenced?

In August of 2016 Cubalex prepared basic human rights courses to teach activists from partner organizations. We formally invited 13 organizations, but only 10 responded, of which 7 appointed a representative to attend the course. Then 6 confirmed they would appear, but the course was ultimately attended by 3. This means that there is not only ignorance, but also a lack of interest.

Cubalex has observed that most activists use social media as their favorite means of reporting violations of their rights. At the beginning of 2017 we surveyed 106 activists, and 84.91% said that they defended their rights through this channel. We also monitored the social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) of 72 activists or members of at least 9 organizations operating informally in the country. The information was insufficient to monitor the specific situation and document human rights violations. Example: the names of the victims of the acts committed were not mentioned, who committed them, or when.

Social media, despite being the most used via by activists to denounce human rights violations and get the public’s attention, is not the appropriate way to attract that of international human rights organizations capable of pressuring the Government. These organizations do not use social media as a source of information. It is necessary to document the violations, draft a report, and send it to these institutions. Complaints on the social networks must be maintained, while improving posting strategies to provide more information about the incidents reported, but it should not be the main tool.

How do you get information from inside Cuba?

Directly from the victims, by telephone and by email. We use social media to identify activists at risk or to report violations occurring at the moment. If the person does not offer data to locate him, we inquire through other activists until coming into direct contact with the victim.

What is the situation like for those members of Cubalex who remained in Cuba?

They are awaiting a final decision by the US Government in the political asylum case. We keep abreast of the status of each one, especially Julio Ferrer. We presented his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests while we were still in Cuba, and it worked. He is currently free, although he is not out of danger.

What has happened to the cases that Cubalex was handling? Did the regime’s action have any consequences for those people?

For now, we don’t know. The prohibitive prices of the Internet and telephone calls off the island make it impossible for people to contact us. We, from outside, also have economic restrictions on making calls to Cuba and following up on them. Our long-term plans including creating strategies and conditions so that the population, especially the poor, have access to a free legal advice service.

What lines of work is Cubalex currently pursuing?

We are following the same line. Reporting human rights violations by the Cuban State, and spotlighting the situation in the country. The filing of complaints in accordance with special United Nations procedures is one of the few tools we have to report human rights violations in the country, and the only one that the State officially reacts to. Between 2011 and 2016 the Government received 24 communications from UN bodies, and responded to 21 of them. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, however, reported 44,604 acts of harassment during the same period. Cubalex intends to change this reality.

Cubalex is working on another report on violence against women in Cuba. Why is it necessary to revisit this issue?

In general, women in Cuba, although they have access to education, health, employment, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work, continue to do most of the work at home, and to raise their children, despite the fact that most of them work outside the home too. Even so, Havana does boast high gender standards compared to other countries in Latin America. The Cuban State subscribes to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, but to date there is no gender law in the country that protects women from violence, and there are no shelters for victims of this scourge.

Added to this phenomenon is institutionalized discrimination, especially through criminal law. For example, the designation of people as “pre-criminal social hazards,” which allows the authorities to categorize and punish people for what they are, and not for what they do, perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes of a racial nature, based on gender, socioeconomic level, marginality, lifestyle, ideology and political opinion.

The “pre-criminal social hazard” measure, in addition to being selective and discriminatory, is an institutionalized form of violence against women. It is wielded against girls between 16 and 18 years of age who engage in prostitution, an activity considered by the authorities to be a socially reprehensible vice. Prostitution is not a crime, but the Government says it “does not tolerate it”. It represses those offering these services, but not those soliciting them, most of whom are tourists.

Many of the women offering sexual services migrate from rural to tourist areas in search of better economic opportunities. They grow more vulnerable when they are forced to submit to the sexual exploitation of pimps, to shield themselves from police repression and corruption. The “pre-criminal hazard” designation linked to prostitution is also used against trans women and other members of the LGBTI community.

Discrimination and marginalization on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation is a widespread phenomenon, but is overlooked even by civil society organizations that describe themselves as defenders of human rights, and whose members are also victims of institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination. This legal mechanism is also used to harass, threaten and prosecute human rights activists, who are stigmatized as “subversives and terrorists”.

Given this situation, what particularities do cases like that of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who are systematically repressed, feature?

In the case of the Ladies in White, this violence acquires a special significance. They are victims of acts of torture and degrading treatment that places their lives in danger. In 2017 the organization was the target of 54.10% of the acts of harassment reported on the social networks and in other media. Its members constituted 45% of female human rights activists who were victims of repression. They suffered 53 violent attacks, which in 94.34% of the cases occurred during arrests.

The death of Ada María López Canino, a member of the organization, on December 12, 2017, is a wake-up call. In 2016 and 2017 she was arrested 81 times. She received several beatings during operations and acts of repudiation, and she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, the result of cranial traumas inflicted by blows to the head.

This brain injury produces multiple symptoms, including strong and constant headaches, which do not go away by themselves. They can lead to complications over time and cause permanent brain damage. It is also aggravated by repetitive head trauma. Cubalex knows of other Ladies in White with similar symptoms.

The Ladies in White are part of a social group that is doubly vulnerable: as women and as defenders of human rights. They suffer from aggravated forms of discrimination and violence, not only from the authorities, but also from civil society organizations themselves, which find it difficult to accept women’s leadership capacities. However, this organization does not specifically and directly address gender issues. On the contrary, they defend and fight for the rights of political prisoners.

Note: Translation is from Diario de Cuba

Stricter Rules For The Advancement And Protection Of Human Rights / Laritza Diversent

Laritza Diversent, 25 November 2017 — Paragraph 9 of Resolution 60/251 establishes that, in order to be able to occupy the position of Member of the Human Rights Council, countries will have to apply stricter rules for the advancement and protection of human rights. Cuba claimed in its candidacy that it signs up to 46 of the 61 instruments adopted by the international community in regard to human rights.

Certainly the Cuban state is signatory to 6 of the 9 most important universal treaties on human rights and to 2 of the optional-supplementary protocols in the Convention on Childrens’ Rights. Nevertheless, the country doesn’t have any way, or political will, to meet several of the requirements of the Human Rights Council, especially in relation to the general obligation to respect and protect, which are derived from the international instruments to which it has agreed. continue reading

In the 2009 EPU (Universal Periodic Assessment of every signatory’s progress on the advancement of human rights) it undertook to carry out a study into the need to complete legislative and administrative changes with a view to giving effect to human rights domestically and to progress its actions to adopt, reinforce and to align its national legislation with its international obligations pertaining to the treaties to which it is signatory.

In 2013, it reiterated its commitment  to revise and maintain the congruence between its national legislation and international human rights instruments, and its international commitments, although, inconsistently, it only took note of the Convention’s suggested recommendation to incorporate the Convention against Torture into national legislation.

Broken promises and undertakings which should be taken into account by the community of nations when considering whether it should continue as a member of the Human Rights Council.

Up to now there is no legal regulation or procedure which permits the assessment of the compatibillity between domestic rights and international ones, and therefore there is no possibility that Cuba, as a member of the Council, will apply stricter norms on the advancement and protection of human rights.

[i] Sections  2 and 3 of  paragraph 130, recommendation formulated by  the United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Mexico

[ii] Paras. 170.20 yand 170.22 formulated by Belarus and China

[iii] Para. 170.24, formulated by  France

Translated by GH

Laritza Diversent and Cubalex Begin Their Life In Exile

Laritza Diversent (center) before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami/Havana, 4 May 2017 — The team at the Cubalex Legal Information Center and its director, attorney Laritza Diversent, have obtained political refuge in the United States following the intensification of repression against the nonprofit organization dedicated to legally advising Cubans.

Diversent, told 14ymedio, from a stop at Miami International Airport this Thursday, that this was a “very hard” time for her and her team.

“We are saddened that we can not continue to provide legal advice to people within Cuba, especially to many of the prisoners we helped, but since last September our work has not been safe in Cuba,” he said. continue reading

On September 23, 2016, agents of the Interior Ministry raided the Cubalex headquarters in Havana and confiscated their work equipment as well as two hundred files of people who were advised by the organization.

“We are saddened that we can not continue to provide legal advice to people within Cuba, especially to many of the prisoners we helped, but since last September our work has not been safe in Cuba”

One day before her departure from the country, the lawyer was summoned by the Attorney General’s Office to inform her of the legal proceedings brought against her by the authorities.

“It seems it is a new strategy to raid the headquarters of organizations. It already happened with Convivencia and with Somos+,” recalls the lawyer.

Diversent explained that she was accused of violating self-employment regulations.

“The State assumes that as we receive financing from abroad we hire people. As legal guardianship is not recognized as an activity to be carried out independently we are accused of violating the law,” she says.

She also reported that they had told a “string of lies” about supposed gifts given by her in exchange for speeding up procedures to legalize her home.

The Prosecutor’s Office ruled against a ban on her leaving the country, Diversent was able to verify. “They told me they knew I was working on the immigration process, and that they would allow me to leave, but that if I returned they would activate the investigation again,” she said.

“They threatened to accuse me of forgery and bribery if I returned to Cuba.”

The lawyer says that independent organizations such as hers are a direct target of State Security and are exposed to all kinds of harassment by the Government.

The lawyer says that independent organizations such as hers are a direct target of State Security and are exposed to all kinds of harassment by the Government

“State Security is aimed directly at us. The international community does not have a strong position with the Government, so we are subject to double discrimination: that of the State that calls us terrorists and mercenaries and that of international organizations and countries that do not support us because they seek to maintain good relations with the Cuban government,” she said.

Family reasons also carried great weight in this decision:

“I am a human rights activist, but I am also a mother. I have a son 17 and I don’t want anything to happen to him. In the case of women, the first thing they do is attack their children,” she said.

Diversent explained that she will be based in the state of Tennessee and that the rest of his colleagues will travel in three groups between May 25 and June 5.

The organization, based in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo in Havana and founded in 2010, provides legal advice but is not legally recognized within the island, despite the numerous reports it has drafted for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among other international organizations.

In July of last year the government refused to legalize Cubalex, after ruling that in Cuba no independent legal aid organizations are needed because “the State already defends the people.”

In July of last year the government refused to legalize Cubalex, after ruling that in Cuba no independent legal aid organizations are needed because “the state already defends the people”

Cubalex members, who have received refugee status, will be based in different states of the United States. However, the lawyer is confident that they will be able to meet at some point to restart the work. For now they have dismissed Miami as a possible site.

Two members of the group, Julio Iglesias and Julio Ferrer, must remain in the country because they are under criminal proceedings or in prison. Ferrer received a change of the precautionary measures against him this week.

“It really hurts me, what is happening to those in Cuba because of the commitment they have made to the people and the work they have done,” Diversent said.

The lawyer explained that for nine months they have been denouncing “violations of due process” in those cases but have not been able to do anything despite exhausting all the resources.

Following the raid on Cubalex’s headquarters, Amnesty International called for urgent action to “call on the Cuban authorities to allow members of Cubalex and other human rights lawyers and activists to operate freely without harassment or intimidation.”

“Cubalex will be legalized in the United States and will continue its work from here focused on supporting civil society organizations on the island”

Laritza Diversent’s trip to the US coincides with Thursday’s release of a communiqué from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), which reports that there have been 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the first four months of 2017.

In April alone, the organization documented 467 arbitrary arrests, of which 335 were women, 132 were men and 147 were black people, ten of whom were “brutally beaten,” according to the activists.

The OCDH has stressed that a climate of repression prevails “at a time when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support like the European Union and the Government of Spain,” and warns that “in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated, as a result of certain nervousness of the Government before the difficult economic and social situation that is facing Cuba.”

Diversent agrees.

“There is much to be done in international human rights organizations. There is a lot to do with the organizations that are inside Cuba, to support them,” she explains.

“Cubalex will be legalized in the United States and will continue its work from here focused on supporting civil society organizations on the Island.”

Broken Dreams / Cubalex

A montage of photos of Cubalex on the day of the police raid and mail from the people they help.

Translator’s note: The references here to the empty offices and the inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of last year, during which much of the organization’s equipment was confiscated.

Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the offices hardly bearable, their faces are not the same as before, but they continue to be united.

“A letter has arrived,” says an assistant. “Read it out loud,” everyone says. “It is a new case, I don’t recall the name,” she affirms. “But start reading it,” exclaimed the investigator.

“OK, I’ll start,” she says. “Havana, 16 November 2016, Dear Laritza and the Cubalex team, I recently wrote to you, another inmate gave me the address. Today I received an answer from you in which you explained the process to be able to help me. continue reading

“And I felt like the happiest prisoner in the world. I had written to all the state institutions and none responded to me. I am speaking to you from my heart, that you have given me back my hope and a desire to go on living.”

The emotion was visible on everyone’s face, after so many days without being able to do our work this letter filled the space and all of us with emotion. It was the first pleasant emotion we had felt after more than 90 days of anguish.

“A million thanks,” she continued reading, “love and blessings to you all, a thousand thanks for the help you can offer me, I have no way to thank you. I once again want to live. In you, I have found different human beings.

“I will send you all the documents you asked me for, I am serving a sentence for a crime I didn’t commit, while the real culprit walks free. They accused me of the theft and slaughter of cattle, and condemned me to 12 years* and I swear to you I am innocent.

“Soon I will turn 21, you are my best gift, just by responding to my letters. I was planning to go on a hunger strike, but I knew of Cubalex’s existence and the help you have given to many inmates here. May God always accompany you and thousands of blessings to you,” she concluded reading.

“He’s just a kid,” said the group’s senior sadly. “Where is it from?” “From Agüica,” replied the reader, looking at the envelope. “We have to answer him,” said the psychologist, “even if it’s on a blank sheet and with a pen. We must explain what happened at our headquarters on September 23. He has his hopes set on us.”

“I have an envelope, and I saw that they left the stamps on the day of the [police] operation, you’ll find them in my drawer,” said the secretary to the assistant.

“Who will answer him?” She asked. “I will,” was the answer that was heard in chorus. “That’s like pouring a bucket of cold water,” said secretary said. “It would be better if the psychologist answered.”

The silence was an expression of the anguish captivated them. “Send him the phone number to call us,” advised the Director. “At least we can guide him. Let’s keep the letter, to show it to the teacher Julio on the next visit to the prison. By the way, who is going to make this visit?”

“I am,” replied the social investigator. “Don’t worry, I’ll give it to him.”

*Translator’s note: the penalties for unauthorized slaughter of cattle in Cuba are very severe, and it is literally true that a person may serve more time for killing a cow than someone else serves for killing a person.

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

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

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

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

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

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