Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Laritza Diversent "We Have The Right To Participate In The Social And Political Life Of The Country"

Laritza Diversent: "We Have The Right To Participate In The Social And
Political Life Of The Country" / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2016 – The headquarters
of the independent legal group Cubalex, this weekend, lacked the hectic
bustle of the many users who normally flock to the site for legal
advice, especially the families of inmates who come with thick folders
of documents, appeals and demands.

When the attorney Laritza Diversent received us for this interview, the
furniture had not been put back in place after an intense search that
left everything "upside down" and, on the table, lay the shattered
remains of a door latch, as physical proof of forced entry.

The psychological scars are fresh among team members of this
organization, threatened with a legal process and forced to strip naked
during the search. However, on Sunday the legal work resumed its course,
thanks to the solidarity of other members of civil society who provided
two computers. A few papers comprise the first evidence of a case that
will demand time and expertise from Cubalex: their own complaint against
the authorities who seized their belongings but could not stop their work.

14ymedio. What was the point of the raid against Cubalex?

Diversent. There were parallel purposes. On the one hand there were the
architectural changes made on this house, where they were looking for
the slightest violation of planning regulations. For example, they
fixated on a bathroom that we put under the stairs as a service to the
public. At the same time they wanted to monitor our work as
an organization that provides legal services to the population.

14ymedio. Who participated in the police search?

Diversent. The prosecutor Beatriz Peña of Oz, the Attorney General of
the Republic, at the head of about 20 people. Among them, a doctor, an
employee of the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Juan Carlos, who led the operation
from his status as an officer of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT),
another prosecutor of the province and an instructor called Doralis, who
made the list of the equipment that was seized.

They also brought experts who took photos, a videographer who was
filming everything, and other computer experts. They had several
officials from State Security, two uniformed police officers and other
MININT officials wearing the uniform typical of prison guards; a
representative from the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT),
another of the Institute of Physical Planning and another from
the Ministry of Justice.

14ymedio. Why was there a representative of the ONAT present?

Diversent. It was justified with the assumption that we are undertaking
an activity defined as 'self-employment', that we are providing a
service for which we are supposedly charging people, without having the
necessary permit. We explained to them in every possible way that we are
a non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides a free social
service, but they acted as if we hadn't made that clear.

14ymedio. Why a repressive act of this nature at this time and against a
peaceful group?

Diversent. It is very difficult to find the reasons for this action,
which can be described as unconscionable. But it can be attributed to
what we have done. First, our attempts to achieve the legalization of
our organization, Cubalex. We have also filed complaints against
official institutions such as the General Customs of the Republic,
saying that books and other belongings have been seized from us at the
airport without justification. That complaint we have taken to court. We
have also made a policy proposal to the Communist Party of Cuba to
change the electoral law.

14ymedio. So you think that is a response to these actions?

Diversent. You would have to ask them. As citizens we believe we have
the right to make proposals and we have the right to participate in the
social and political life of the country in which we live.

14ymedio. Did you resist the police officers who were entering the premises?

Diversent. The "resolution to enter the home" – the warrant – to
undertake the search said that they were looking for "objects of illicit
origin," but it didn't specify which ones. The law establishes that this
detail must be clarified, so I denied them entrance and invoked the
right to inviolability of one's home. However, they broke the lock on
the outer gate and also the one on the main door to the house.

14ymedio. The law also specifies that the search must be made with at
least two members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution
[local watchdogs] as witnesses. Was that requirement met?

Diversent. The witnesses were two members of the party nucleus in the
zone, who did not behave as impartial witnesses, but as partners in the
operation. To the extent that they sometimes suggested to MINIT
officials where they needed to search, and they constantly used the term
"we" with the sense of being a part of the operation, far from their
supposed function as impartial witnesses. One of them was more than
85-years-old and boasted of being an unblemished revolutionary.

14ymedio. What was the final outcome of the search?

Diversent. They seized four laptops and five desktop PCs, including a
server, and three multifunctional printers. In addition they took hard
drives, memory sticks, cameras and all the cell phones were taken.

14ymedio. What has been the reaction of other independent groups to this

Diversent. Almost all the entities of civil society have expressed their

14ymedio. Could the information seized pose a risk to you?

Diversent. More than 200 case files that we are working were taken, many
of them regarding inmates anxious to see some improvement in their
status as prisoners. There is a risk that these people, in exchange for
any advantage in their prison regimen, might declare something that
hurts us, such as that we charge for our services. But that is in the
realm of speculation.

14ymedio. What is the worst thing that could happen?

Diversent. We are very concerned because they have made specific threats
against us, such as that so far this is an administrative matter but
that it could become another type of process.

14ymedio. Are you thinking of not continuing the work you have been doing?

Diversent. No. Rather, what happened encourages us to keep doing what we do.

Source: Laritza Diversent: "We Have The Right To Participate In The
Social And Political Life Of The Country" / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar –
Translating Cuba -
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