The Cuban Law Association, founded on October 1st, 2008, is an independent, non-profit organization composed of a group of a dozen lawyers from different specialties, whose work is geared to meeting four objectives, explicit in their Organizational Letter: to contribute to the education of the entire population in legal matters; to inform Cubans about pacts signed by the government (February 2008) on behalf of the people of Cuba; to provide, whenever possible, free aid or legal advice to citizens who require or need it, and to offer any assistance requested by the people in matters contained within the profile of the legal profession. As a consultancy, this is an unprecedented experience under the “revolutionary period.”
The original idea in creating the Association originated with Wilfredo Vallín, who was greatly inspired by the signing of the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, which ignited -as expressed in the founding document- “a flame of hope, though certainly still small and hesitant, at the end of the tunnel through which we passed many years ago.” Two years after what has proved to be a symbolic signature for the Island’s government, now submerged in a deep structural and moral divide, the Cuban Law Association, however, enjoys superb health and great prestige among an ever-growing sector of Cubans in the independent civil society (and also many ordinary citizens with no connection to these sectors), who have benefited directly or indirectly from the work of these jurists.
Of the four essential foundations of the Association, the first is undoubtedly of paramount importance in a country whose population has traditionally suffered from chronic legal illiteracy, currently aggravated by more than 50 years of totalitarianism. Cubans generally do not even know the rights (mutilated, emaciated, disabled or incomplete, but rights after all) that are contained in laws enshrined in the current Constitution, which makes us even more vulnerable to the abuse and violations of the dictatorship. Perhaps exactly for that reason, officials fear the work of these independent lawyers: nothing is more useful to the regime as bovine ignorance in order to continue to keep its human flock blind and submissive. For the government, which has fed on the fear and legal obscurantism* of the Cubans, Wilfredo Vallín’s effort and the efforts of all the members of the consultancy which he heads of instructing us as rightful citizens seem subversive, so they have tried strenuously to prevent the work. In vain.
The first semester of our Blogger Academy has recently ended. For six months, dozens of Cubans of various ages, trends and creeds participated in Wilfredo Vallín’s outstanding classes in Ethics and Law. During that time, we had a group of lawyers from the Cuban Law Association in class who gave us their extensive legal expertise, we learned the history of law, the Cuban Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Act and numerous examples of how, on a daily basis, our most basic rights are being violated. Professor Vallín’s classes became the source of the most heated debates twice a week, and were also an encouragement for claims to exercise our rights, recognized in law by the very regime that walks all over us. After lessons learned from the specialists of the Association, we have matured as citizens, and we have fully realized that, even under dictatorship circumstances, the only slave is he who chooses to be one.
Photo: Attorney Wilfredo Vallín during one of his lectures at the Blogger Academy.
*Obscurantism: a policy of opposition to enlightenment or the spread of knowledge