Reports from Cuba: Fidel, the Lawyer Who Never Won a Case
Fidel, the Lawyer Who Never Won a Case
The awarding of the National Law Prize to Fidel Castro—who abolished the judicial branch, established “revolutionary courts,” did away with procedural guarantees, and outlawed unfettered advocacy—is a mockery of justice.
I acknowledge that when I read that item my first thought was: “But hadn’t he already been given that?” We know that in these totalitarian regimes dominated by Marxism-Leninism, the bosses, by virtue of being that, are destined for all the distinctions, recognitions, and awards that have been or might be given. That the alumnus Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz had not been previously considered when this Prize was first granted probably cost some bureaucrat in the judicial sector a good scolding.
Now that it is an accomplished fact we should ask: What objective reasons exist for granting it? Was it based on the person’s performance before or after coming to power? The dilemma warrants that we briefly address these issues in order to give a response.
The professional practice of the older Castro after graduating as a lawyer was practically nil. In this he is no different from other figures who have gotten into history carrying a law degree. Internationally: Robespierre, Karl Marx, Lenin. In Cuba: Agramonte, Céspedes, Martí. These are just a few examples.
Of course I’m not making value judgments, simply naming people who, for better or worse, have earned a place in history. “Lawyer” is the title that is generally used to describe those figures. Although the appellation is not false, it is not really accurate nor illuminating. To more accurately describe what is common in these characters, we have to use a slightly longer phrase: “Lawyers without cases.”
This last characteristic is what distinguishes these beings. Unlike their colleagues, their activity is not devoted to drafting legal documents, outlining legal theories, or obtaining the acquittal of an accused. No; in the universities they were outfitted with the same tools, but they use them, if at all, to achieve more ambitious and broader political or social objectives. If they represent a clientele, it is political and not professional.
In the case of Fidel Castro, the grantors argue that the Prize is granted “to mark the 60th anniversary of his self-proclaimed defense ’History will absolve me.’” According to Granma, the obliging colleagues of the association of legal officials described this document as “a seamless legal piece . . . that has transcended the boundaries of space and time.”
We know that if anything has characterized the honoree, it is his overwhelming verbosity (rightly documented in The Guinness Book of Records). But the tens of thousands of pages containing his discourses, such as History Will Absolve Me, cannot be found anywhere else; they are not quoted in history books or cited alongside philosophers of past centuries. Haven’t the obsequious jurists noticed? Can’t they draw any conclusions from this?
In his plea, Castro criticized the mechanism (reminiscent of the classic tale of the chicken and the egg) established in the Constitutional Laws of the Batista regime: The President of the Republic appointed the ministers, and these in turn elected him. The curious thing is that after the climb to power of the revolutionary team in 1959, the Basic Law established exactly the same vicious mechanism.
A detailed description of the illegal acts perpetrated by the recipient during the scores of years of his absolute rule would require a collection of books. He did away with the judicial branch, established “revolutionary courts” composed of guerrilla fighters lacking legal education, eliminated procedural guarantees, outlawed the unfettered practice of law, and converted the prosecution into a body guided by political criteria. In a word, he dismantled the solid Cuban legal system.
If the bureaucrats of the Union of Cuban Jurists consider that the perpetrator of such acts deserves the National Law Prize, they are saying very clearly what they really think about this award, which they both created and bestowed.
Cubanet, March 6, 2014 / René Gómez Manzano
Translated by Tomás A.