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Legal Illiteracy

January 7, 2010 2 comments

Sometimes I regret having studied Law. Another times I think that I chose to study Law in the wrong place. When I was finishing my university studies my frustrations began. My idealistic concept of Justice was very different from the concept I had to use as a professional.

Perhaps because of this I felt inspired to become an Independent Journalist. It was a way of showing discontent with the legal system established in my Country. But it could not fulfill my aspirations. I love the Lawyer”s profession, and I wanted to pursue it as I had dreamed.

Before going to the University I did not realize the state of Human Rights in Cuba. I spoke the word “rights” but I did not know what it meant. If had it not been the focus of my studies, I never would have known its meaning.

On the streets, at bus stops and on public buses, I hear anecdotes and conversations that reaffirmed for me that Cubans are legally illiterate . A few weeks ago I heard a conversation between two young men, confirming for me that I wasn’t wrong.

I work as a specialist in the Office of Land Registry in Boyeros. There I am fulfilling my social service requirement as a university graduate. I had finished my working day exhausted. I took a bus. Behind me sat two young men. One was a student of technology. The other, wearing an uniform of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), was a law student.

The technology student showed his friend a ticket written by a law enforcement officer. He asked if he was obligated to pay it. The MININT guy asked why he had gotten that ticket. The teenager said that he raised his voice to the policeman. The other asked him to repeat the answer. I don’t know if he couldn’t hear very well or if it sounded absurd. The truth is that the young man gave the same answer.

I usually avoid interfering in the conversations of others. But sometimes I can’t resist the temptation to comment. On this occasion, hearing that awful situation, I couldn’t stand it. I questioned the boy.

Then I gave him a mini-lecture on crimes against the administration and jurisdiction and offenses in the Penal Code regarding the issue of disrespect of the authority or the police. Furthermore, I said that speaking loudly to the police is not prohibited by the law.

In Cuba, the excesses and abuses by the authorities to the detriment of citizens’ rights is a reality. The legal ignorance of people contributes to their vulnerability. This is why a group of attorneys decided to form an organization, the Cuban Law Association, which aims to raise the legal awareness of Cubans.

For over eight months, we worked hard on creating educational materials to build a civil society and the understanding not only of applicable laws, but also of the Cuban Constitution and the fundamental rights embodied in it. That is moment when my real battle began against frustration and, above all, against the legal illiteracy that exists in the country.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: pacoworld

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