About Hatred / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

No one shall be subjected to torture nor to cruel, inhuman or degrading …

In the early days of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, in the course of military operations, a scene shown on Cuban television remained in my memory.

A fighter against the Taliban power entered a small town where, shot down by insurgents, there were several bodies on the floor. Approaching one of them, which he seemed to recognize, he began to kick it furiously.

A question immediately came to my mind: What relation could the dead man have had with him, to fill him with such hatred? What had happened between them?

I’ll never know what happened, but it immediately brought to my mind words like these:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the inviolability of his person.

Did the Taliban, possessors of total power at the time, think that it would last forever and they would never have to answer for their actions and in that belief they acted as they did?

Examples of such attitudes abound, but there they are, for those who want document them, Nero and Caligula in ancient Rome, Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Joseph Stalin in Russia, Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Pol Pot in Kampuchea, and many others who would make this list too long.

But there are other examples that call in another direction:

And it is not land that constitutes what is called the integrity of the Homeland. The Homeland is more than oppression, more than pieces of land without freedom and without life, more that the right of possession by force. The Homeland is a community of interests, unity of traditions, unity of purpose, sweet and comforting fusion of love and hope.

This and no other is the direction in which we should go. Because we must avoid, before it is too late, having to hear these words:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…

Whereas it is essential that human rights are protected by the rule of law, so that no man be compelled to have recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression…

I hope sanity prevails over hate.

2 May 2012

The Work of A Life / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

On our way to the pharmacy, three individuals in plain clothes arrested me and my wife as we left the building where we live. They showed us an ID card: DSE [Department of State Security].

I thought they were trying to prevent us from attending a tried being held at the 10 de Octobre Municipal Court, very near our house.

There was a patrol car with police officers every hundred yards. At a signal from the agents there was a screeching of tires.

It was around 11:30 in the morning. We were in the street with many people watching.

As the patrol car pulled up, one of the plain clothes agents took out some handcuffs.

“You are being arrested,” he told me, putting my hands behind me and adjusting the handcuffs to be as tight as possible.

My wife tried to get an explanation from a young agent in a yellow T-shirt. I urged calm and entered the police car before my astonished neighbors. They took me to the Aguilera police station at in Luyano.

They removed the handcuffs and ordered me to sit near the file cabinet. My wrists are sore and red.  I wonder what could be happening for such an action. Later I seem to understand. After half an hour the young man in the yellow shirt appears. He identifies himself as agent Brian and tells me to enter a nearby room. He sits down and directs me to a chair across from him, with a table between us.

He begins to talk about our work at the Cuban Legal Association (AJC), which he considers “within the law and correct.” He seems to know a lot about what we do. (Later I will learn that he is just repeating what my wife told him in front of our house, in reality he knew nothing about us.)

He goes on to “advise me” that I not associate myself with “counterrevolutionary activities.” He names some names. I respond that the AJC tries to help every Cuban who comes to it because neither the Law Collectives nor the national courts are trusted by many people in the country. Several minutes of conversation are enough for me to realize that this young man (he is 28), who could almost be my grandson, lacks the knowledge and debating skills for an exchange of opinions.

Forty minutes later, he returns my identity card and by way of saying goodbye asks if he can come to my house and see my work. I respond in the affirmative, although I am convinced that his superiors will never allow a closer relationship with us.

Once outside, I seek a reason for what happened … and I find it.

1. For a long time, when control of information was tight, the letters DSE produced in any citizen a paralyzing effect. That and the flamboyant operation point to a prophylactic action, not so much for me as for the curious and those who will learn about it third hand.

2. It was a subliminal way to get my attention for my participation in various programs of the Estado de SATS.

If my speculations are true, more problems will come, because I act from the deepest conviction.

I am aware of the dangers of demanding rights in a totalitarian government, so if the consequences of my actions have a fatal outcome, I want to express my thanks to those who put me in such an honorable position I never thought I deserved: The pantheon of unforgettable.

I endorse the words of José Martí, who experienced it first hand:

“Death is not real when one has fulfilled one’s life work well.”

16 April 2012

It Should / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

The first group of 8 young people came on a Tuesday morning. The second of four boys (I don’t think any were as much as 30 years old) came last Friday. Neither group knew of the other nor did they know their members.

All claimed to have come to me because they committed the same and only crime: leaving the country illegally.

The Captain of the Port of Havana, in two resolutions signed both by Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Luis Aluija, spoke of another distinct offense, violation of Decree-Law No. 194 of 1999 refers to Infractions with regards to the taking and operation of vessels in the country.

In these resolutions Chapter 1, which applied to all of them, is key; it reads:

To enter or leave the port or navigate territorial waters without the necessary clearance permit from the Captain of Port.

In these Resolutions of the Captaincy are a number of details that deserved our attention, among which we note the following:

  • The Captain of the Port of Havana’s concept of what a vessel is.
  • The time between the commission of the “crime” and notification of the sanction to the “offenders”.
  • The violation of the Migratory Agreements between Cuba and the United States that the implementation of this Executive Order in these cases could signify.
  • The clear intention to punish someone who risks his life to leave the island by any means.

It is not my intention at this point to dwell on these points I leave it to the specialists of the relevant branch of the Cuban Law Association.

The point I want to touch on is this: while talking to these boys and seeing their determination to leave the country by any means possible, I asked this question I now pass on to those who should have the responsibility to answer:

Is the way to stop this situation among Cuban youth imposing huge fines or other punishments?

Is that how we should respond to the desire of our youth to have a decent future, to decide their own destinies?

The television program The Triangle of Trust addressed, this week, the issue of apathy among youth.

I very much liked what I saw and heard in this program.

They said that the apathy is due, among other things, to the fact that our youth do not participate in decision-making, they feel that everything is imposed from above, and they are not taken into account at all.

And as I watched the program I thought of something that made me smile:

The crime of “Offense Against Youth” does not exist … but it should.

29 March 2012

The Road / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

On March 2, lawyers for the Cuban Law Association (AJC) delivered in the afternoon, a new Remedy of Appeal to the Minister of Justice in response to Resolution No.1 of 2012 denying the application for the establishment of our Association.

Thus begins a new phase in the already lengthy process of legalizing the association truly independent Cuban jurists.

We do not call on deception and false expectations. We know perfectly well the considerations that affect us and the precedent that such legalization would create in the country.

We also know the essence of a system that has the vital need to know and control, down to the smallest detail, the lives of its citizens.

However, in a previous post that I titled “Arduous Task” that I wrote after receipt of Resolution No. 1 of the Ministry of Justice, I presented our views on how difficult it would be to demonstrate the rational to the official authorities to show that law, their own law, is with this.

The answer we now send and that our readers that can read on the blog of the Association – and in which the Board of the AJC and other scholars of our subsidiary in Havana participated – has been described as legally technically impeccable by other lawyers.

It is therefore abundantly clear and palpable, even for those without legal training, that to disallow us will be very difficult, as to do so would not pass the test of meeting all reasonable legal considerations.

If the end result of this chapter does not play out in our favor, we shal say then with Miguel de Unamuno:

“We shall overcome because you have more than enough brute force, but you do not convince. To convince is to persuade, and to persuade you need something that you lack: reason and right.”

In any event, whatever happens now, it will not be the end of the story. As we have said before, it is just another step on the road to exhaust domestic remedies.

5 March 2012

The Right to Know / Cuban Law Association – Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

by Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

The Conference of the Communist Party of Cuba is over. From it, what we have left is a single phrase: “no illusions.”

This is equivalent to saying — in good Cuban — that things will continue as they are, we should not expect changes and future rosy prospects and must resign ourselves to our fate for any number of years.

It also means that anyone who thinks differently, who dares to protest, to questioning the higher ups about their performance, or to engage in a hunger strike will be, unquestionably, “an employee of imperialism, a traitor to his country, a scum criminal who already had problems”; finally, someone totally disqualified to question anything, even at the cost of his life.

A sad fate that we live as a country.

But I think that the constraints are limited and what seems to be coming in Cuba, though it doesn’t appear so, is that things are changing and one of those changes is what happens with information.

Information used to be exclusive to the State until a few years ago. Now the technology (although we are still far from the INTERNET), along with the bravery of a group of independent journalists (despite the Black Spring), have broken the monopoly and the public finds out things they previously would not have known.

Of the Ladies in White there is no need even to speak: its very existence and the release of the 75 political prisoners — first and foremost, the credit for this is theirs — speak for themselves.

In this context, we will continue doing what we believe is our duty as Cuban lawyers, namely: Let our countrymen know their rights under the law of the country and ways to exercise them accordingly.

Let them know the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by the Cuban government for the people of Cuba, but never published for the information of citizens.

Continue to help Cubans who can not afford it to pay for services from the Law Collective, the transport of these firms’ lawyers to prisons or other places, or what is often asked for “under the table.” and any other advice requested from civil society.

The eternal heroes of this nation, who unfortunately are no longer with us, long ago gave us the rights “we don’t have to beg for,” many of which are inalienable because they derive from our essential human condition.

And this, which we note here, is in that category, because it is a question of the Right for Cubans to know.

Translator’s note: This is the first translated post from the Cuban Law Association blog — an outstanding blog about the law and human rights in Cuba.  The original blog in Spanish is here.

13 February 2012