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What Can an Independent Lawyer do in Cuba? / Laritza Diversent

June 14, 2014 1 comment

In Cuba, professionals can’t work for themselves in the specialty in which they graduate. Legal counseling and consulting are not recognized as self-employed activities, the only actions that a lawyer can perform independently. The few that make this decision have to do it for free.

It’s also difficult to form an autonomous association. The red tape required to legalize a non-profit organization assures that the State has absolute control over it.

To these limitations economic dependence is also added. The lawyer who doesn’t work for the State doesn’t earn anything. In order to survive, in a system where the economic crisis is permanent, independent lawyers collect extra honoraria, even when the regulation on the practice of advocacy, among other causes, considers it a serious shortcoming to receive honoraria that are not established or are better than those officially approved, whether in cash or in kind. A double morality is imposed by these conditions on the practice of advocacy in Cuba, and with it comes total submission to the system.

See Artículo 59.3 inciso c, Resolución No. 142/84 “Regulation on the practice of Advocacy and the National Organization of Collective Law Firms.”

From Jurisconsulto de Cuba, by Laritza Diversent

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 June 2014

Readers of Granma in an Angry Struggle Against Retailers

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

by Laritza Diversent

Readers of Granma, the official daily publication of the Communist Party of Cuba, are requesting real action against the sellers of various household items, one of the self-employment categories most in demand by Cubans.

J.C. Mora Reyes, this last Friday, complained about the lack of governmental action to repress it, in the Letters to the Editor section on June 8. According to the commentator, along with the denunciation, the retailers have crossed a line: “What was sneaky before and supposedly ignored, now is known.” However, he asserted that “everything stays the same, thereby encouraging transgressive tendencies as something quasi-normal.”

“I’ve read, heard, and given many opinions about the resale of articles commercialized by the State with inflated prices formed only by the law of supply and demand and the pretense of innocence by those who should and are obligated to protect the consumer,” commented J.P. Granados Tapanes, in the same section.

The weekly section in Granma, in less than one month, published around 10 opinions of readers who were against the retailers. The majority of readers think these people are not self-employed and accuse them of strangling the economy for those who are working.

According to official data, before expanding and creating flexibility in the types of self-employment in October 2010, the sector constituted approximately 87,889 people, 0.78 percent of the population. Presently there are 378,000, and it is hoped that the number will grow to 500,000 this year.

Right now the category of Contracted Workers is the one most requested by Cubans. Next comes Producer-Seller of Food, Transportation of Cargo and Passengers, and Producer-Seller of Various Household Items (retailers).

“It’s sad to see how all types of merchandise, in many cases subsidized by the State, and other things that come from outside in hard currency, are for sale publicly at inflated prices with self-employment licenses,” comments J.P. Granados Tapanes.

Legislation prohibits self-employed Cubans from selling industrial articles acquired through established state networks. It also requires them to market their own products exclusively, with the possibility of freely setting prices.

Grandos Tapanes called the self-employed cuentapropistas “workers by means of extortion” and held them responsible for “the deterioration in the ability of any employed Cuban, no matter what his economic level, to buy things with his salary, which is worth less all the time.”

The solution for these retailers is a wholesale market, where they can acquire merchandise in quantity and at lower prices than those offered to the population in retail markets, only the ones legally recognized by the authorities. This is a problem that, according to the recorded guidelines approved by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, will be worked out before the end of 2015.

According to Mora Reyes, public denunciation doesn’t have any effect when “there exists tolerance, procrastination, inability, expediency, or defections on the part of the authorities in the application of energetic measures” against these demonstrations.

According to the reader, to go on the offensive is not something to be taken lightly. It’s “a pressing responsibility from the moment in which you become conscious of a situation incompatible with human dignity. Acting is better than talking,” is the conclusion.

There’s no doubt that the government’s inactivity in the face of these denunciations converts this section of the only daily newspaper into a national tirade. It airs complaints and laments without giving any solution, in the style of the accountability of the municipal delegates. However, the cuentapropistas are worried about the influence that these opinions could have on the upper echelon of leadership.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

June 25 2012

OMNI-ZONA FRANCA Back in Cuba After Touring the U.S.

June 27, 2012 2 comments

by Yaremis Flores

Amaury Pacheco del Monte, coordinator of the cultural project, OMNI-ZONAFRANCA, returned this Wednesday to Havana after an artistic tour that included several cities in the U.S.

Invited by the group of contemporary art, Pirate Love and Links Hall, the Center for Independent Dance and the Art of Performance, the alternative group shared its talent in festivals, concerts and universities, together with Cuban and North American artists. During their stay they were invited to local radio and television programs.

“We were on television shows and on the news on Channels 41, 51, and Radio Marti,” said Amaury, who confessed that “until this moment I didn’t understand the importance of a minute on television.”

“In the recording studios we felt at home, surrounded by Cubans almost the whole time, especially in Miami. But we also shared time with Cubans in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New Orleans. It was a fantastic experience. We were well received, and people accepted our art,” said Amaury.

One of the things that made the most impact on the leader of the project was the diversity in the U.S. “We met every type of person with different views. After this experience, today I feel changed,” he pointed out.

“I was surprised to meet Cubans who live there and their kids, who have never visited the island but have been brought up in the Cuban tradition, eating bread with guayaba. They feel they are Cuban, without being in Cuba,” he added, moved “by the separation that our people suffer.”

OMINI-ZONAFRANCA today constitutes the vanguard of alternative Cuban art. Its coordinator anticipated future projects “to continue working on Poetry without End, acknowledging ourselves through our artistic work and creating bridges among Cubans in every part of the world.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

June 25 2012

Story of an "Occupation"

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Yaremis Flores.

The coordinator of the Cultural Project OMNI Zona Franca, Amaury Pacheco del Monte, is a dreamer. He fantasizes he can offer his family a comfortable life. He’s far from juggling enough to meet the needs of his six small children. His family suffers from the housing shortage on our island, and on top of that, from institutional and human indolence.

Four months ago Amaury illegally occupied an apartment in the capital district of Alamar. He broke into a building that had been vandalized and used by lovers. The apartment was empty for years, but it was requested by several neighbors who lived stacked on top of each other, or who had serious health problems and needed an apartment like that one, on the lower level. Amaury lived in subhuman conditions, like other Cubans, even if, according to the Constitution, everyone has the right to adequate housing.

The maxim that your best friend is your nearest neighbor doesn’t have as much force today. The neighbor upstairs sleeps peacefully, without turning the passkey that could supply water to the new tenants. He refuses to do it until ordered by some authority.

Weeks pass without access to water or electricity. Institutions like the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women and Social Workers have made an appearance, each like a poor student who goes to school just to be present. They appear unfazed by the shortage of essentials. The Neighborhood Council also remains deaf and dumb before these events.

“Representatives of some agencies advise me to say that they already went through here if someone checks; they take notes as proof and go away,” points out Iris Ruiz, Amaury’s wife. “I won’t accept a bureaucratic response,” she says, with her newborn daughter in her arms, who, asleep, seems oblivious to what is taking place.

One of the most famous phrases of our National Hero, José Martí, comes to mind: “Children are the hope of the world.” It’s ironic to see a family that has contributed to the already marked birth rate in our country unable to find a solution to their problem.

The General Housing Act offers some ways to solve cases like this. One is to facilitate the status of squatters so they become renters, with the possibility of purchasing the home and paying the set price.

I believe in the popular saying “if you want it enough, it can happen.” However, Amaury’s family awaits a favorable ruling by the lazy officials. Not out of pity, but because of their duty to uphold the law.

Translated by Regina Anavy

March 8 2012

"Occupy" in Havana

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Yaremis Flores.

On the periphery of Havana, in the Alamar district, cases of illegal squatters in unoccupied buildings are proliferating. The Government and the Municipal Housing Division (DMV), the entities in charge of solving the problem, are simply targets for the numerous complaints and pleas of the population.

“You’re not on the list of priority cases, there are people worse off, and they haven’t committed an offense like you,” said Rita, president of the Alamar Government, to Iris, on Thursday Feb. 9, in an interview, together with the DMV Legal Subdirector.

Iris Ruiz, the wife of the OMNI-ZONAFRANCA coordinator, and her 6 small children, occupied the apartment 4 months ago, Number 1 of the Building E-83, Zone 9 Alamar, where they currently live without water or electricity. Her family was declared an illegal occupant by Resolution 1608/2011, which establishes that “in 2004 the house was confiscated, after the definitive exit of the owner, who went to the U.S.”

“It’s uncertain that the house was confiscated,” said Iris. “The Director of the DMV told me that the apartment is not included in the housing stock. After 2004, two people lived there. One of them is still on the records of Betty, the president of the CDR, even though they abandoned the country more than 5 years ago.”

“They left this apartment ruined, while other people needed it,” Iris added. Neighbors say a DMV inspector visited the site several times with apparent illegal buyers for the property.

“Rosaura, a neighbor of this building, has a son who had a heart operation, and she lives together with 10 people; Estela, a neighbor at Building E-79, has a paraplegic daughter and needs to live on the ground floor. These are two of the parties who tried to get the unoccupied apartment. The Government’s response was negative, because “the apartment is already taken.”

Who gets priority? Iris wonders.

According to the President of the Government of Alamar, at the municipal level no institution has the power to assign housing. Since 2006, this function has been the responsibility of the Provincial Government. “Only from me can you get an apartment, since our mission is to combat illegal behavior,” Rita warned Iris, after showing her the extensive list of squatters, waiting for eviction by the authorities.

Yaneisy, known as “the Twin,”already has lived through the experience of an eviction. She’s had a social-work case-file in the Alamar DMV for 16 years. Some time ago, she illegally occupied an apartment. “They evicted me with my 2 young children and put all my belongings on the street. They told me I should go back to my place of origin: a 2-room apartment, where 12 people were living together,” she said.

The housing shortage is a sad reality that increasingly affects a larger number of Cubans. Those scattered around by the usual shortage can’t afford to pay monthly rent for housing, let alone buy a house, whose prices don’t invite optimism.

Translated by Regina Anavy

March 6 2012

Friends

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I was a little busy at the end of the year, but I did not forget you, and I want to take advantage of the first post of 2012 to wish everyone the best for this year – health, prosperity and happiness – and especially to all Cubans who follow my post, I hope we achieve the freedom we so much desire.

I also want to thank you for the strength and encouragement you give me in your comments. You have allowed me to see different points of view. Even though I can’t exchange comments with you, I like them, although I’ve never seen your faces or heard your voices. Thank you very much.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

January 5 2012

Behind the New Changes

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The new housing regulations in force struck down part of the laws that prevented Cuban emigrants from disposing of their homes before leaving the country permanently. But it left in force Law 989 of December 5, 1961, which requires permission to enter and exit, and the confiscation of property for this reason.

Before the recent measures were approved, it was rumored that this law would be removed from the Cuban legal system. However, only the rule that supplemented it was repealed; its application was still permitted.

The National Housing Institute, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior, through Joint Resolution No. 1/2011, repealed the resolution issued August 22, 1995, which made effective the implementation of Law 989/1961, and which was intended to prevent someone from avoiding confiscation and disposal of property before leaving the country.

Why would they leave in effect a law that has lost all meaning? With the new changes the State could confiscate a home if the owners have not disposed of it before emigrating. Nor does it make sense to keep the law, because it imposes on Cubans the need to get permission to enter and exit. The current Immigration Act and its regulations impose and regulate the manner of obtaining such permits.

Nevertheless, rumors continue to spread about the approval of a new immigration law by the end of this year. If that happens, perhaps Law 989/1961 will be expressly repealed. It’s rumored that they might extend the length of stay abroad for two years. Right now Cuban residence is lost after one is absent from the country for 11 months and a day.

The more enthusiastic say that where there’s smoke there’s fire, a popular saying among the islanders. Personally I am not so optimistic. It’s hard for me to believe that the government would give up its control over emigration so easily.

On one thing there is no doubt: Law 989/1961 will pass into disuse. Perhaps it will be repealed tacitly. However, in the Cuban legal system, a law that is not expressly repealed remains in effect. A law that governs by tradition.

The problem is a possible backlash. In 1993, the State, with the coming of the Special Period, allowed the rise of self-employment. In 1997 they began restricting licenses for self-employment, which were eliminated in October 2010 with the new regulations for this sector. Uncertainty refuses to abandon us.

There is also no doubt that the changes that have occurred and those that are rumored to come are good and hoped for by the Cubans. The problem is that their adoption and permanence depend solely on the will of the political class, which is entering into a period of general elections in 2012.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than that, a strategy to increase the level of acceptance of the Communist Party of Cuba among the population. It’s not by chance that it’s happening in the second half of the first term of the head of state and government, and the First Secretary of the only recognized political organization governing the country, Raul Castro Ruz. Maybe it’s a simple coincidence, but I don’t think so.

Translated by Regina Anavy

November 29 2011

The New Legislation on Buying and Selling Property Has Been Published

November 3, 2011 3 comments

The Government has just published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba, the legislation that authorizes the purchase and sale of private property.

Download here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

November 3 2011

It Won’t be Easy for Cubans to Buy or Sell Houses

August 6, 2011 1 comment

Photo: Havana House, drawing by the Canadian, Alicia Bedesky

A few days ago, the newspaper Granma announced that by the end of 2011, Cubans would be able to buy and sell homes. Despite the buzz caused by the news – according to the announcement, the steps for conveying property legally would be more flexible – many people still have misgivings.

According to the newspaper, “the payment of the price agreed upon between the parties will be made through a bank branch.”

“I don’t like that. It seems strange that they’re now making it so easy,” says Manolo, 40, who works filling cigarette lighters. He distrusts the requirement to open a cash account at least for the buyer, and adds: “What worries me the most is having to justify the money.”

The government only recognizes as legitimate income from employment, remittances and inheritances. “How do I show the money my brother sends me through ‘mules’ or one of those private agencies that are not recognized by the government?” asks Manolo.

Indeed, for those who can’t certify the legality of their inflows of money, there is the risk of being prosecuted administratively for unjust enrichment, because the state can presume that the deposits are the result of theft, diversion of state resources or activities on the black market.

In these cases, they confiscate homes, cars, bank accounts, etc., acquired over a period of time that may be prior to when the inherited wealth was verified, which allegedly enriched the individual and the close relatives who can’t justify the legal origin of their goods.

Moreover, taxes are also on the list of concerns of those who are obliged to create a bank account to buy a home. The seller must pay personal income tax, while the buyer has to pay for the transfer of property.

And the tax rates make people uneasy. On the black market, real estate is priced in convertible pesos. The price of a stone house with a room, kitchen and bathroom, located on the outskirts, can run between 5,000 and 6,000 dollars in hard currency. In local currency, by which taxes are calculated, it would be between 125,000 and 150,000 Cuban thousand pesos.

The more anxious analyze the situation by comparing it to the taxes on private businesses. “If someone who by the sweat of his work makes more than 50,000 pesos has to pay a 50 percent income tax, can you imagine how much it will be for selling a house?” commented the clerk at a privately-owned cafe.

The transaction, undoubtedly, will eliminate tax evasion, but not fraud in the affidavits. It appears that the relaxation of bureaucratic regulations in the sale of housing will not eliminate “the manifestations of illegality and corruption,” as Granma says. And the government waits.

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Translated by Regina Anavy

August 4 2011

Logic, Absurdity and Socialism in Cuba

June 5, 2011 1 comment

Logic passed through Cuba. He was curious about how socialist democracy worked, but full of doubts. He asked everyone he saw, and only Absurdity could give an answer. “Why have the decisions of a political party been so decisive in the life of an entire people?” was Logic’s first concern.

“The Sixth Communist Congress,” Absurdity began his explanation, “discussed the final draft guideline of economic and social policy of the Party and the Revolution, to update the Cuban economic model and ensure the continuity and irreversibility of socialism.”

“The continuity of socialism as a system must be decided by all the citizens,” interrupted Logic. “So why does a political party of nearly 800 thousand members decide the issues to be discussed and what should or should not be reformed? Were they elected by the people”? he asked.

“The Party does not participate in the elections, but it’s the driving force of the State,” answered Absurdity. “In this country we have made it clear that we will defend ourselves, if necessary with arms. Only socialism can overcome difficulties and preserve the gains of the revolution,” Absurdity affirmed.

“Does this mean that the Communist Party has more power of decision than the National Assembly, the body that represents and expresses the will of 11 million Cubans”? Logic inquired. “Don’t look at it like that,” replied Absurdity. “Look at it as the Party of the people.”

“So Cubans themselves decided to require permission to enter and leave their own country, and that only foreigners could have private businesses on the island, and that their own involvement in the economy would be limited to running tiny little stands and kiosks?” asked Logic. “Yes, it’s so,” said Absurdity. “We all decided to sacrifice ourselves for the Revolution and Socialism.”

Logic continued investigating. “As I have understood, now the National Assembly must transform into law the decisions adopted by the Communist Congress,” he commented. “Yes, that was the recommendation of the Party,” reaffirmed Absurdity. “So the Party commands and the Assembly obeys, without asking the people?” Logic asked.

“In fact, Cubans were consulted about the guidelines. For your information, they were analyzed by a little more than 8 million participants, and 3 of them spoke in the debate, a real lesson in democracy,” Absurdity commented.

“But you just told me that the Party isn’t a body elected by the people,” Logic again interrupted. “So in order for there to be institutions, there has to be a referendum. Logistically a popular referendum is a waste of resources, which, in the historic moment we are experiencing, we cannot assume.”

“To our historic leaders, it seemed more necessary to invest such efforts in a parade where we showed our military arsenal to our enemies. Many are those who want to destroy the Revolution and socialism, so only they have the experience to decide what is best for all,” explained Absurdity.

“This is democracy?” Logic asked in amazement. Absurdity frowned and looked cross. Logic understood that he shouldn’t continue asking questions. Something told him that he never would understand Absurdity’s explanations, much less his reasoning, about how socialism worked in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

May 30 2011

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