The End Justifies the Means / Laritza Diversent

One of the exemplary punishment methods used by the island’s government during the 90s was to turn criminal rules into administrative ones. This is the case with Law 149 “On confiscation of assets and income from unjust enrichment”, which was enacted in 1994 by the State Council.

The rule was enacted to apply “effective and exemplary action against those who obtained an illegitimate wealth thus accumulating wealth and property … the result of theft, speculation, the diversion of resources belonging to a state agency or other officially constituted participation in shady business, black market activities and other forms of enrichment. ”

In 2003, the same government body enacted Decree Law 232, which imposes on owners confiscation or forfeiture of the premises or homes, when they are practicing corruption, prostitution, pimping, trafficking and smuggling of people, pornography, corruption of minors, etc.. It also applies to those who lease their property without legal authorization.

It is not important to be aware of the law to know that in the background of these provisions that the commission of criminal acts will be judged not by a court but by an administrative authority. It appears that custodial sentences were insufficient for social prevention.

In the conversion of penal rules into administrative ones, the government completely ignored the respect it owed to citizen rights and guarantees. For example, the application of those two Law Decrees reaches out to third parties, who find themselves obligated to respond on their own behalf for the acts of others, when in a criminal trial the responsibility is personal.

Both outcomes ignored equally the principle of the presumption of innocence. In administrative confiscation, conceived by the founding directors, the citizen is he who has the obligation of proving that he is not guilty. To that, add that those affected have no way to defend themselves before the acts of the administration that might be detrimental to them, putting them in a complete state of indefensibility.

The Council of State entitled administrative authority to the Ministry of Finances and Prices, in the case of Decree Law 149, and to the President of the National Housing Institute in (Decree) 232, to impose confiscation and to review its decision when the victim appeals the act. They totally ignored the right that citizens have to be heard publicly and with justice by an independent and impartial court.

Both decreed laws impede claims of justice before jurisdictional bodies, when all people have effective recourse before competent national tribunals which protect them against acts that violate their fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or the law.

The State Constitution serves little when it guarantees “property over the housing that one possesses with just title of ownership”, if for the founding directors, maximum expression of the Cuban State and its revolution, this is “the result of revolutionary work”.

In this sense it is considered “unacceptable that unscrupulous persons should take advantage of these conquests and use them in activities of personal gain and enrichment”. So much so that they decided upon severe punishments for these opportunists, without caring that they were violating constitutional principles and citizens’ rights. The end always justifies the means.

Translated by: Multiple persons

February 23 2011