The Consumer and His Rights / Veizant Boloy #Cuba

20-derecho consumidor

by Lic. Veizant Boloy

In shops in the capital where they sell things for foreign currency, they offered various food products and things for the home at reduced price, which pleased the people living there. Jams, packets of biscuits, boxes of caramel powder, packets of fried tomatoes, custard, alarm clocks, and other things costing no more than one CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso).

Both customers and retailers took advantage of the discounts and bought as much as they could afford. “This is a bargain,” said one of the retailers.

The vast numbers of customers didn’t spot the flaw. Some, who took the precaution of turning the product over to note the expiry date, read the information: best before the month of August 2012. Others didn’t notice this until they got home.

The shop assistants told them to try the products, but they wouldn’t accept any returns. The nonsense was that, in the case of the clocks, they didn’t have any batteries so you couldn’t try them. In various parts of Havana there are shops which are skilled in selling faulty products, but this wasn’t the case here. These products had passed their sell-by date and others were just useless.

Selling date-expired food to people constitutes a commercial and public health offence. The offence is the greater when most of the consumers of the jams are children.

The consumer’s rights are set out in the regulations issued by the public authorities intended to protect purchasers or users in the market of goods and services, which bestow and regulate certain rights and duties.

In spite of the fact that the consumer’s rights are not an independent branch of the law, fundamental aspects of the relationship between producers and consumers are to be found in Commercial Law, Civil Law; others in Administrative Law and also Procedural Law.

In Cuba, there are legal regulations which protect the purchaser’s rights, but they are not heeded. The inspectors look the other way. The people are on the whole unaware of their rights, and, in a time of scarcity, accept these infringements of their rights as consumers.

The best advice to Cuban consumers is to check before you buy. And insist on it.

Translated by GH

January 3 2013

Law or Violence / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida #Cuba

19--legalidad o violencia

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

I always thought that on the day in which things in Cuba would become as they are today, the people in power would behave with much more good sense and flexibility.

Those of us who now have grey hairs, do not forget the nationalisation without compensation of many properties, the compulsory separation from families who have gone abroad, the persecution for religious belief, the Forced Labor Camps (UMAP), the banning of the Beatles, the notorious “warning” to the intellectuals, the very dangerous installation of nuclear missiles, etc., etc.

All of this, plus the accumulation of five undelivered five-year plans, have worn out the patience of the citizens whom they asked to sacrifice their time and their lives in return for the future of the New Man.

Now we see, for example, the open letter attributed to a group of surgeons from the Calixto Garcia hospital circulated on the internet, where you can read:

The deficiencies in the medical service are so serious … that we cannot provide medical attention which is ethical and which our people deserve, which is our sacred duty.

For how long are we going to be grateful to the centenary generation for having done their duty … while our generation waits to carry out its duty to develop and to give our families and children the life they deserve?

I also never thought that we would be the citizens who use the revolutionary and socialist laws to indicate to those in power (and also to international organisations – why not?); that those who once told us “we are all equal before the law” would put themselves outside the law and allow themselves to disregard it.

It’s what happens when:

– They handcuff and throw in jail a lawyer who has gone to a police station to inquire about the legal position of a prisoner.

– They tell us that “from now on, lawyers will not be allowed into police stations.”

– They tell the activists of the campaign For Another Cuba:

These Agreements are all very nice, but, what you don’t know is that, behind all this is the hand of the enemy who has other aims in mind…

(Please note the implication that Cubans never do anything as a result of their own convictions, but we are always programmed and led by foreign enemies).

– They use violence against people without any basis in law and with the manifest contempt on the part of the political police for peoples’ legal rights as recognised in the nation’s own Magna Carta.

– They send a message to the people which reads:

The only possibility of independence and national sovereignty resides in ourselves. There is absolutely nobody in the 11 million Cubans who has more ability than ourselves to guarantee that sovereignty, as well as the right to stay here all our lives.

Violence only leads to more violence. Many people have already died for that and others have been close to dying for the same reason.

Unfortunately, possibly some more Cubans have to die before this sad story ends. It’s just that those of us who feel love for this country always bet on the first of the two choice in this absurd binomial alternative: law or violence.

Translated by GH

December 30 2012

Santiesteban, the Facts and Reasonable Doubt / Angel Santiesteban, By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

The questions mount up in the criminal case of the celebrated writer Ángel Santiesteban leaving the legal officials in Cuba looking very bad in terms of transparency and legal techniques and leaving us with a certain taste of injustice. The case is a good demonstration of that and gives rise to something which in the past used to be unacceptable to legal practitioners; deciding a penalty while doubts persist.

IN DUBIO PRO REO (the accused has the benefit of any doubt) is what they used to say, but this seems to have been excluded from Cuban legal practice.

In criminal law and criminal procedure, the events which give rise to offences normally focus, in terms of process, on two basic aspects:

  1. the facts in themselves (the grounds of fact), and
  2. the relevant legal principles (Articles of Law, Resolutions of the Governing Council of the Supreme Popular Tribunal, legal doctrine, interpretation, etc.)

Let’s start of by indicating some of the irregularities (there are more) in terms of grounds of fact which are evident in this complicated and lengthy business;

The only direct evidence shown in the process is that of his ex-partner, who is the one accusing him. But what we have ended up with is that during the various declarations offered by her in the long-drawn-out preparatory stage, the accusation has repeatedly changed, to such an extent that the Prosecutor had to disregard and ignore some of them on the grounds, as far as we could see, of being ambiguous and hardly able to be taken seriously.

Can you have confidence in the evidence of a person who keeps changing his or her testimony? In the same case, this lady again contradicts herself, this time in terms of the medical certificate she presents, which does not accord with the injuries she claims to have received.

In her testimony, the claimant says that after having been brutally hit, she was raped by the accused. The Prosecutor nevertheless did not take into account this important element in the case.

Prior to this matter, Angel and his ex-partner had been through another case where she accused him of having threatened her. In this case the defendant was found innocent.

The appearance of the teacher and school director of Santiesteban’s son, Eduardo Angel , was important. She testified that the child told her that his mother obliged him to say things against his father. This evidence was also disregarded by the Tribunal.

Obviously, these were not all the issues of fact: I have referred to only some of them – sufficient in my opinion to illustrate to those not well-versed in such matters, what is the meaning of REASONABLE DOUBT.

Translated by GH

December 20 2012

…I became a teacher, which is like making myself a creator / Jorge Hojas Punales #Cuba

10-me hice maestro

By Lic. Jorge Hojas Puñales

The Bible is a great book, maybe many people have it in their homes, and from time to time they read it, trying to teach themselves, without really moving on from just reading it. It is clear that they need someone who knows about it, who can explain the teaching which it contains.

A law, a decree, a resolution, or whatever legal instrument, is of no use in our hands, if we don’t have someone who can guide us, explain the contents in a reasoned manner, who can teach us every precept and help us understand the scope of its application. Just as with the Bible, legislation has to be preached or taught, and even better, with examples. Disobeying it amounts to sacrilege.

It’s no good if knowledge of the law which applies in our state is reserved exclusively to legal professionals, to those organisations and institutions charged with its development and endorsement, or those who are required to work with it. It becomes more and more necessary, and indispensable, to have at least some knowledge in order to live, live with others, in the Rule of Law in a civil society

The most basic rules for living together, are modified by Law, in accordance with the society in which they are sorted out. It would be wonderful if someone designed them in a spontaneous, honest and disinterested way, teaching the law, bringing it within reach of everybody, without distinction. What great satisfaction he would feel, knowing that he had contributed a grain of sand to add to the spreading and enrichment of the legal culture and the good of the people!

Possibly the conditions for this to occur don’t exist, but the desire to do it is something many people feel.

Translated by GH

December 22 2012

Police Behaviour / Regina Coyula #Cuba

In a gastronomic food shop which only takes foreign currency, situated at 3rd and 8th in Miramar, a little more than a week ago, a known customer, who is a doctor at the Polyclinic at nearby 5th Ave., instead of asking for something in a discreet manner, as required, shocks the shop assistant by his drunken behaviour. The doctor is upset by the telling-off he receives, and starts using abusive language and the macho body-language well-known to Cubans. The employees decide to eject the drunk. Having been thrown out of his happy hour he returns to 3rd and 8th with reinforcements. The fight with the employees starts up right away. They call the police, who turn up quickly, but all they do is watch, until the moment when someone collapses and there is blood spilt. The doctor’s son is knifed.

Last Thursday in the same part of Miramar, but at 18th and 1st. A woman by herself, holding two signs, with the word VIOLENCE on one of them, is detained with the sign and without any preamble is put into one of the two police cars which promptly turn up.

These accounts are given to me by direct witnesses, people uninterested in politics, but in each case the way the police acted was unacceptable. It isn’t that the image of the police throughout the world has to be about helping old ladies cross the road or catching pickpockets in the act. The police should always inspire respect. But respect is one thing, fear and repulsion are something else.

Regina Coyula

Translated by GH

December 14 2012

I don’t know why you think … / Dora Leonor Mesa #Cuba

What a sad life if you don’t see!
don’t see the guitar
don’t see the woman
don’t see the sparrow flying away
when it’s about to rain
nor the little lizard
on the wall.

Song, poetry byN. Guilln

I went from the internet straight to the police station known as the “eagle’s nest”. Earlier, some activists told me that about 5 pm at the Acosta police station nobody was there anymore. The brave activists of the civil society, who were there, were beaten and thrown in jail. Around about 7 pm, and in effect there was nobody around.

I was also at risk of being detained for the simple fact of going to the police station to ask about and show support for those arrested.

As they explained to me later, the State Security order was:

“Straight to the slammer with anybody who comes to ask questions!”

That Tuesday 6th of November, I saw at the eagle’s nest police station a relative of the activist Mario Moraga, who was also imprisoned. One way or another, God helped me, and a polite police official was prepared to see me. On learning about Laritza Diversent, the only independent lawyer being held there, they asked me if I was a relative, and with sincerity I said:

“We are like family. We work together for the rights of Cuban youth,” I replied.

He looked at me strangely, asked for my identity card and then went off inside the premises, I don’t know where. I had to wait quite a while, but I wasn’t being held.

When the card was returned to me, I went off with my tail between my legs. I hadn’t been able to find out hardly anything. The police weren’t authorized to give me information, they explained:

“The official in charge of the case will be here tomorrow. Ask him your questions.”

From Tuesday 6th November up to Friday 9th at midnight we passed an anxious time while they let us know little by little that Yaremis Flores, Laritza Diversent and other independent lawyers had been freed. Nevertheless Antonio Rodiles was still being held.

The way I see it, the important thing is that although I knew my investigations could mean I ended up in jail, I never felt aversion for any police agent. They have hit me on other occasions. Now there was someone who was looking at me with disdain. Others pretended not to notice anything. An official shouted at me for asking something, and I replied to him like I do to my students: with lots of patience, and in a gentle voice.

Teachers are facilitators and teach by example. Anger and contempt have to be banished by anyone who really loves the teaching profession, especially if those we are teaching are little boys and girls. I know it’s difficult. Nevertheless, quite clearly, this blog is essentially from the Cuban Association for the Development of Infant Education (ACDEICuba) and we dream that Cuban boys and girls will one day read these lines. We want them to know the feeling that always was and will be present in us and in those texts in very difficult moments. One of Nicolas Guillen’s poems best describes our feelings – he is the author of the unforgettable verses “A Paper Boat is floating over the Sea of Antilles.”

I don’t know why you think …
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you,
if we are the same thing,

You are poor, me too;
I am from the lower class, so are you;
where have you got the idea,
soldier, that I hate you?

It pains me that sometimes you
forget who I belong to
for goodness sake, if I am you,
I am the same as you
So, what you have done is nota reason for me
to dislike you
if we are the same thing
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you.

We will see each other, me and you,
together in the same street
shoulder to shoulder, you and me
without hatred, neither me nor you,
but both of us knowing
where we come from, me and you,
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you!

Translated by GH

December 18 2012

Professionals / E. Javier Hernandez H. #Cuba

Lic. Edilio Javier Hernández H.

There is a group of professionals in our society called to play an important role in the restoration of harmony between the people and the government, in the context of a Rule of Law which is seriously damaged, cracked and corrupt. We differentiate ourselves from the professionals of the health service, because apathy, idling, and ignoring of the Hippocratic Oath directly and lethally affect the general public.

Many professionals have decided to get rid of the connection with the impositions, demagogy, corruption and double standards, not agreeing to any more exploitation or manipulation or messing about indefinitely in bureaucracy.

We have recognised a new open group (years ago I knew about two of them who browsed the health website infomed) of surgeons and doctors from the Calixto Garcia Hospital, who courageously say what the majority of the Cuban population think but do not dare to express, about the administrative chaos experienced by our society in all the administrative structures and organisations of the state

All praise to those doctors who step forward for other professionals and intellectuals who stick their heads in the sand like ostriches when they see any danger. There are numerous examples of official and social associations, congresses, events and workshops, which act as umbrellas or windbreaks, shielding themselves against the rain and gusts of disappointment, frustration and unachievable hopes, which are our reality.

It seems also that analysis of the Lineamientos (Guidelines) has failed to serve as a problem bank or a generator of ideas to take forward as action to break through the inertia. Is it so hard, considering that the leaders don’t account to us for what they are managing, or say when things they are doing will be completed, or not, or tell us how much longer we will have to wait or continue to trust in them.

In tribute to those brave doctors, I would like to say to the other professionals in our country:

I still like my work; how much could we do, how much could we change if only some tribunal lawyers, some prosecution lawyers, legislative lawyers, defence lawyers, or consultants were to stop submitting and giving in to law which is ideological and burdensome, above all imposed by all the well-known organisations, the Party, the Military and the Ministries.

These are extracts from the Eighth Congress of the United Nations on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Criminals, which took place from 27th August to 7th September 1990 in Havana, Cuba:

… considering that the appropriate protection of human rights and fundamental liberties which may be invoked by every person, whether they be economic, social and cultural or civil and political, requires that every person have effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession.

the Basic Principles of Legal Practice which appear below, which have been formulated in order to assist member states in their task of promoting and guaranteeing the proper performance of lawyers, should be taken into account and respected by governments when framing their legislation and practice in their countries, and should be brought to the attention of lawyers, and others such as judges, prosecutors, members and officials of the executive and legislative powers, and the public in general …

 Access to expert assistance and legal services

1. Every person is entitled to seek the assistance of a lawyer of their own choosing, in order that they may protect and demonstrate their rights and and defend them in all stages of the legal process.

2. Governments will ensure that they establish efficient procedures and adequate mechanisms to enable effective and equal access to expert assistance on the part of all persons within their territory and who are subject to their jurisdiction, without any kind of distinction, such as discrimination based upon race, color, ethnic origin, sex, language, religion, their opinions whether political or of other type, national or social origin, economic situation or position, birth, or other condition.

The sentences of tribunals will gain greater conviction and their debates greater majesty.

The lawyers will be more highly regarded; the guarantees are to be published and affirmed.

For people to be free, their rights have to be clear. For people to govern themselves,  their rights have to be common …

From Nuestra América, José Martí.

We still have time to set an example to other professions.

Translated by GH

December 21 2012

Hold on and wait a few minutes please. The lines are busy. / Rodrigo Chavez Rodriguez #Cuba

1356696026_chavezLic. Rodrigo Chávez Rodríguez

Shall we carry on waiting a few minutes? When we have already waited decades, we continue every day a bit more painfully dealing with the lines, or rather the twists of this “planet Cuba”

When I talk about twists, what I am obviously getting at is that at least they should give us some idea of how to follow the tricky route to actually communicate something, which is every day more controlled by the armed institutions of our Republic of Cuba. PNR*, DTI*, Immigration and Aliens, DSE* (Eyesight Test, known as Cajoteros because of its old initials KJ, as in “KT”, meaning illegal Phone Tapping).

We are also becoming subject to the latest technology such as “KE” (Checks in the Ether), “KF” (Checks on Films), “KM” (Microphone Checks) and the customary checking over letters and documents official and unofficial “KC” (Correspondence Checks) , like those to do with Illegal Arrest, without any legal recourse and completely ignoring what is expected and established in the Laws of this PLANET CUBA, on the part of the police instructors (DTI, DSE), who expect to be called Lawyers, when all they have is a Degree in Rights, which isn’t the same thing. Respect them!

Everyone is subject to this. From a Cuban citizen or foreigner of any position in society, to a tourist and including political leaders, and accredited diplomats both national and visiting.

Our Public Prosecutor will watch out for the true and only legality in any proceeding, delivering with absolute and clear justice its verdict and firm sentence via POPULAR TRIBUNALS, or, as applicable, those of the People, in relation to people of whatever position in society.

Those who find it impossible to give in to the powerful, will not be waiting for a few minutes please nor GETTING OFF THE LINE

In this way, phone calls are not guaranteed, and calls for our RIGHTS confirmed in our CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC, in the unknown UNITED NATIONS AGREEMENTS, which are  unknown to the great majority of the population and whatever RIGHTS experts.

Don’t hang up, don’t let them carry on making us wait any longer, for the only opportunity to speak more and more clearly. Don’t block the lines PLEASE.

Translator’s Notes:
PNR: National Revolutionary Police
DTI: Technical Department of Investigations
DSE: Department of State Security

Translated by GH

December 28 2012

Couldn’t the Journalist Wait? #Cuba

By Osvaldo Rodríguez Díaz

In the month of November 2011, the concern and emotional state of the family and friends of an accused person reached an intolerable level. They were shocked at the in-your-face and disrespectful manner in which the press referred to the defendant.

The following appeared in the newspaper Granma on 8 November 2011 in a piece headed Theft and Killing of Cattle:

One of the accused, ex-director of CENOP, in a municipality in the capital city, refers, in a totally impertinent manner, to the insecurity of the control arrangements, which he took advantage of, in order to carry out illegal acts, and he boasted of having got round the requirements of laws and decisions, making use of wide open gaps in the arrangements. 

We don’t know how the journalist got access to the information during the preliminary investigation stage, as neither the attorney nor the lawyer, as parties in the legal procedure, were notified of this.

The obvious concern of the relatives of the accused was that this report in a national newspaper could, from that moment, have a negative influence on the views of the judges appointed to deal with the case, which is unhealthy in terms of due process, apart from the fact that in our country we have complained when other parts of the media have got up to such tricks for this kind of purpose.

Fortunately, the judgement has already occurred and it is possible that the tribunal members were not aware of the aforementioned article.

The journalist doesn’t know whether the information provided by the accused is very useful, and it is a great source of regret that tribunals take it into account as mitigating circumstance, by way of Article 52 of the Penal Code.

But, remarkably, the same journalist says that, taking into account similar judgements (to those of the accused, presumably),the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) now expects to make the procedures more flexible in order to deal with the present gaps.

Beware: every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in open court; couldn’t the journalist have waited for that?

Also, it wasn’t proved in the judgement that the accused would obtain any personal benefit, but would only assist the owners of the cattle in getting the better of the bureaucrats.

Translated by GH

December 26 2012

The Turn of the Outraged / Jeovany Jimenez Vega #Cuba

In March 2007 the Attorney General of the Republic replied just once to the first of three applications by two doctors who had been unjustly disqualified. It wasn’t just a technical report issued by a non-political and autonomous body against two citizens who considered their rights had been fundamentally violated, but this retrospective response was a vendetta, a written crucifixion using biased and politically-chargedlanguage.

But for some mysterious reason, and in spite of the fact that more than five years have passed, I woke up this morning with a couple of doubts circling in my mind. This is what they were about: if, hypothetically, the two people affected were now to decide to file a lawsuit at the Peoples’ Tribunal against those responsible for the serious injury suffered, what process would they have to follow? Would it now be considered appropriate for our Attorney General to accuse these officials – who doubtless still occupy public service positions – of having subjected us to public humiliation and grave professional and family damage?

Above all, the conclusion would unavoidably be drawn that we should be reinstated in our profession and recompensed for the salary owed to us to cover the period in which we had been disqualified; the implication would be clear that it was a total injustice, and that in order to throw the book at us they played with the truth, they slandered us and, obviously, someone was responsible. Today I would ask our “honorable” Attorney General who five years ago dismissed all the evidence in our favour, if we still have the right to accuse those persons who, enjoying full authority, never did anything.

I wonder if one could still proceed on the grounds of perjury and defamation against the then Provincial Director of Health of Havana, Dr Wilfredo Lorenzo Felipe, who is now Municipal Director of Health of Guanajay, and his wife, Doctor Beatriz Torres Pérez, who was then Dean of the Western Branch of the Institute of Medical Science of Havana, against the then Minister of Public Health, Dr. José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, who is now the Head of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Party, who ignored the 10 letters sent to him, and the present-day Minister, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, who ignored several others.

I wonder if one could proceed against the President of Parliament,Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada on the basis of perversion of the course of justice, and against Esteban Lazo, Vice President of the Council of State, and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, First Vice President of the Council of State, or Raul Castro, our President, who received four letters which were not replied to – just a question. All these persons, even if they weren’t responsible for what happened, at least knew about it for years and did nothing about it.

Moving on, I ask myself if the Attorney General of the Republic would consider it to be in order to commence an action for perversion of the course of justice against itself as an institution, for having, since mid-2007, rejected the evidence which should have resulted in our immediate readmission, as it showed that the facts were twisted in order to punish us for political reasons. I am supposedly living under a Rule of Law – as my government assures us – which gives me the authority, I believe, as an ordinary citizen — perhaps Citizen Zero — to place before the relevant powers such resources as I believe necessary to guarantee my personal liberties.

I am not proposing to dig around in the shit. My long and patient struggle to return to work in my profession has made me grow and rise above my miseries. Now I am only driven by curiosity, because although I have the right to feel resentment still, nevertheless I have decided to follow the noble advice of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez, those blessed miscreants who, just a few hours after my reinstatement, proposed that from that moment I should concentrate on my health and forgive everything; after everything it was those “warmongers” who – paradoxically – put it to me that I should have the courage and stature to forget.

by Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Translated by GH

November 13 2012