Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Public Trials, a Clear Message to Citizens

Public Trials, a Clear Message to Citizens / Alejandro Tur Valladares
Posted on August 19, 2013

CIENFUEGOS, Cuba, August, As if it were serialized
novel, the Public Prosecutions in the city of Cienfuegos just started
what we could say is their third season, when on August 6 two citizens
were processed and convicted in one of those covens — taking as its
amphitheater the crowded Calzada de Dolores Avenue — for having stoned a
passenger bus.

The practice of punishing presumed lawbreakers outside the courtroom is
not new; it goes back to the beginning of the communist government in
the late fifties, when elements linked to the repressive apparatus of
the Batista dictatorship, first, and political opponents emanating from
the ranks of the rebel army or organizations related to the July 26
Movement later.

Trials were held in public plazas so that the enraged masses could
frenetically shout: "Paredón*! Paredón!"; trials without the benefit of
the most basic procedural safeguards. The fact is that this did not
matter then and does not matter now, as the main task of this process is
to instill revolutionary terror in a particular sector of the
population, not justice.

During the decade of the '90s, the repressive tool was unsheathed again,
this time seeking to silence popular dissent following the growing
hunger, extreme shortages and endless blackouts that darkened the island
from one end to another in what has been known as the "Special Period."

Dozens of individuals, seeking an outlet, threw stones against the
windows of shops, passenger buses, or simply damaged to public
telephones; they were then paraded like animals in a fair before an
audience far less effusive and committed to the powers-that-be, people
who were limited to looking on silently, not daring to announce their
disagreement with the way the revolutionary process was going.

The just concluded trial is part of the new government campaign calling
for us to combat social indiscipline; it was given a push after Raul
Castro's speech last July 26. Since then, there has been a marked
interest in reviving old methods of social coercion directed, not only
at damming the waters not only of legitimate discontent, but especially
the downright antisocial behaviors that are on the rise due to the loss
of values that afflict our society. And in this strategy, Public
Prosecutions play a fundamental according to the ideologues of the
Castro regime.

I'm not trying, here, to justify unhealthy behaviors such as damaging a
bus, obviously a social good, especially if those who carry it out have
extensive criminal records and admit to having acted motivated by
alcohol and the heat of a fight.

It is about understanding that justice must have as a priority the
social rehabilitation of the individual, as a last resort isolating them
from the community to which they cause injury, without taking on, as an
additional burden, character assassination of those who commit crimes.

In short, if we think carefully we will see that this distorted form of
administering justice involves more than a demeaning form of
prosecution. It is not only that the procedural guarantees of the
accused are weak, or that holding a trial in a public street in front of
hundreds of bystanders involves additional punishment outside the
framework of laws stipulating penalties, at the moral cost of infringing
on the process, and on those who haven't yet been judged.

The presumption of innocence is thrown into the trash, because I know of
no similar experience in which those implicated have ultimately been
declared innocent. What it's really about is sending a clear message
that is heard loud and clear in society, so that people can understand
the risk of any attempt to undermine the Socialist order.

The treatment in this case is the same for career criminals, as for
those who offend from necessity; for the discontented subject who breaks
a window or posts a dissident sign as a single act of relief, as for the
political opponent who systematically disobey laws that violate
universally recognized human rights.

And this is well understood by the population. It is not by chance that
one of those present at the scene told me, disgusted, "These are the
ones who are making us starve. Why didn't they hold similar trials for
the corrupt Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage? Why when a Party First
Secretary is fired from his job for stealing is he not given the same

The major emphasis of the lawyers is to try to prove the "Revolutionary"
character of those they are defending, to ask for mercy because they
were affiliated with the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
and paid their dues.

They were content to base their efforts on an attempt to gain the favor
of the "magnanimous revolutionary justice." There was nothing of a
brilliant defense or calling out suspicious allegations. Everything
following a predetermined script. The defendants, before passing through
that avenue to have their blind date with the scales of justice, knew
that they were already condemned.


Alejandro Tur Valladares. Cienfuegos. Independent journalist since 2005.
He founded the Cubanacan Press Agency, directed also by José Moreno. He
has collaborated with various media such as Misceláneas de Cuba,
Primavera, Radio Martí, Radio República. He is the director of the Jagua
Press agency.

*Translator's note: "Paredón" — To the wall — was the shout of the mob
demanding the prisoners be executed.

15 August 2013

Source: "Public Trials, a Clear Message to Citizens / Alejandro Tur
Valladares | Translating Cuba" -

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