CubaBrief: U.S. courts allowed Castro to harass opponents in civil claims over decades. How continuing existence of political prisoners informs new generations.

There is a moral cost to engaging with dictators, but we now learn that it can also involve delays in justice in a free society because they can overwhelm the courts with frivolous legal claims to shut down those who denounce them. Diego A. Zambrano, an assistant professor of law at Stanford, published a shocking article in The Wall Street Journal on September 2, 2020 titled “Foreign Tyranny by U.S. Lawsuit: Dictators from Napoleon III to Fidel Castro have taken advantage of the American legal system” found in his “research that over the years foreign dictators—including Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro—have litigated a wide variety of civil claims in U.S. courts, using the American legal system as a tool to promote their policies or harass opponents.” 

Take for example the shocking decision at the start of the Castro regime to permit the dictatorship litigating against those defending private property rights in order to back the seizure of property as described by Professor Zambrano in his OpEd

“In 1960 Castro nationalized and expropriated any property in Cuba “in which American nationals had an interest.” This prompted disputes between American property owners and Cuba’s Communist regime. Castro’s government filed a case in New York against an American company, asking a federal court to enforce its expropriation order. The defendants argued that U.S. courts shouldn’t aid a foreign totalitarian government, especially because Cuba didn’t grant Americans reciprocal access to Cuban courts. Less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, in Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino (1964), the Supreme Court rejected the defendant’s arguments, allowed Cuba to expropriate property from U.S. nationals, and even recognized Cuba’s expropriation order as an “act of state” that U.S. courts couldn’t re-examine.”

U.S. courts legitimizing the governing edicts of Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro against American citizens has consequences. It is important to consider the full ramification of what they are accepting with the current “legal” system operating in Cuba for example.

CubaBrief has several entries on political prisoners because over the past 61 years the Castro regime has locked up huge numbers of Cubans for their political or religious beliefs or for other arbitrary reasons. The reality that Cuba is in the grips of a dictatorship that cannot be removed from power via the ballot box means that there are many Cubans who have thought out loud how to conspire to finally be rid of the dictatorship. The prisons are full of Cubans who dared to dream of freedom.

In the debate over Cuba policy many try to frame the conversation through the lens of the distant past, without taking into account that the present is informed by that past, and in the case of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners this reality has remained constant. Valerie Tirado, a Cuban American university student, interviewed her grandfather, Jose Ramos-Plasencia, a former Cuban political prisoner, about his early experiences growing up and being imprisoned in the early years of the Castro dictatorship.

The repressive nature of the dictatorship has provided a shared traumatic experience to multiple generations of Cubans. It is an experience that also forms the worldview of Cuban American grandchildren, but they are also informed by new generations of Cuban political prisoners and their loved ones.  Some of them are living in their midst who are  recent arrivals. The horrors endured in the early years of the Castro regime by those who today are elderly Cuban exiles did not end. They continued to terrorize new generations of Cubans, creating new generations of exiles and martyrs.

Thankfully today there is an international human rights network that hears the cries that in the 1960s and 1970s often went unheard.

Prisoner and journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces and the dictatorship's repressors

Prisoner and journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces and the dictatorship’s repressors

On  September 2, 2020,  ARTICLE 19, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Cuban prisoner of conscience and independent journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces. This Cuban prisoner of conscience was first beaten up then sentenced to a year in prison for his work as an independent journalist, and specifically for covering the trial of Cuban pastors jailed for homeschooling their children in April 2020. He began his prison term on September 11, 2019.

Throughout this odyssey, Roberto José Quiñones Castro, his son, has been taking time away from university studies in Virginia, and joining with others to protest for his dad’s freedom outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC.

Two young people of the same generation learning the lessons of repression in Cuba explains why the dreams of the Pro-Castro lobby continue to be dashed. Valerie talking to her grandad, and Roberto talking long distance to his mom to learn how his dad is doing in prison for exercising his human rights and practicing his profession of journalism.

Worse yet, as the totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba developed, its repression has become all pervasive, and thousands currently are imprisoned because of their potential to oppose the regime in the future under the dystopian charge of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.” 

It is not an accident that when Fidel Castro died in November 2016 that the streets of Miami filled with Cubans of all ages, including many young Cubans and Cuban Americans who celebrated the death of the old tyrant and hoped for a better future. Imagine how Valerie, Roberto, and many others would react to learning that U.S. courts are providing legal standing to despots to go after their critics in the United States to silence them.

Meanwhile, we ask all friends of freedom to watch carefully what happens to both Roberto Quiñones Haces, who is supposed to be freed today, and the case of Silverio Portal Contreras that we highlighted in the previous CubaBrief. Both their lives hang in the balance, and raising your voice about their plight can be the difference between life and death. 

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Amnesty International, September 2, 2020

Cuba: Government must release journalist and prisoner of conscience Roberto Quiñones Haces

2 September 2020, 08:49 UTC

Mexico City – The Cuban government must immediately and unconditionally release Cuban prisoner of conscience and independent journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces, demanded the organizations ARTICLE 19, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and Amnesty International today.

Quiñones, aged 63, was tried in 2019 and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for “resistance” and “disobedience” because of his work as an independent journalist.

“Roberto Quiñones’ conviction is not only one more example of the censorship faced by independent journalists in Cuba, but also shows how it is used to generate fear among those defending freedom of expression in the country and threatens the right to seek and receive information freely. No journalist should have to choose between silence or jail. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Roberto Quiñones”, the organizations said.

Roberto Quiñones’ conviction is not only one more example of the censorship faced by independent journalists in Cuba, but also shows how it is used to generate fear among those defending freedom of expression in the country and threatens the right to seek and receive information freely. No journalist should have to choose between silence or jail. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Roberto Quiñones

In April 2019, Quiñones reported for the online newspaper Cubanet News on a trial at the Guantánamo Municipal Court of a couple, two evangelical pastors, who had decided to homeschool their children. According to the journalist, the National Police detained him and beat him. Consequently, he filed a formal complaint against the police officers. Roberto Quiñones also alleges that he was arbitrarily detained on previous occasions, as far back as 2015.

In August 2019, Roberto Quiñones was found guilty of “resistance” and “disobedience” and sentenced to one year in prison. On 23 August, an appeals court confirmed his conviction, without granting him a new oral hearing. On 11 September 2019, Roberto Quiñones was arrested in Cienfuegos, Cuba; he has remained in prison ever since.

For decades, Amnesty International has documented how provisions of the Cuban Penal Code, such as “resistance” and “disobedience”, have been used to stifle freedom of expression in Cuba. The imprisonment of Roberto Quiñones is another example of a long-standing policy that has continued under the administration of President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

While imprisoned, Roberto Quiñones has developed gastrointestinal, respiratory and other health complications related to pre-existing conditions, according to his family. Quiñones has also written about the conditions in which he is held, including the overcrowding, poor quality of food and water and the lack of adequate medical care, for which he was punished by the Guantánamo Municipal Prison Disciplinary Council with a ban on any further writing, according to statements that emerged in the press and were gathered by ARTICLE 19. These health factors increase the potential risks posed by COVID-19.

In 2020, in the context of World Press Freedom Day and amid warnings about the effects of COVID-19, ARTICLE19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International issued an open letter to the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Quiñones. The Cuban authorities have not responded to this request.

“Instead of trying to justify the conviction of an independent journalist like Roberto Quiñones for peacefully exercising his profession, the Cuban government must take concrete measures to protect freedom of expression and the press, as repeatedly requested by the Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN, as well as other states in the context of Cuba’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the Human Rights Council,” said the organizations.

Instead of trying to justify the conviction of an independent journalist like Roberto Quiñones for peacefully exercising his profession, the Cuban government must take concrete measures to protect freedom of expression and the press, as repeatedly requested by the Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN, as well as other states in the context of Cuba’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the Human Rights Council

The demand for Roberto Quiñones’ immediate and unconditional release is made against a background of multiple concerns regarding alleged restrictions imposed on independent journalists in the context of COVID-19 and of Decree-Law 370, which, according to reports, appears to extend the Cuban government’s network of control and censorship of the digital space, potentially undermining freedom of expression.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/gobierno-cubano-debe-liberar-al-periodista-y-preso-de-conciencia-roberto-quinones-haces/

The Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2020

Foreign Tyranny by U.S. Lawsuit

Dictators from Napoleon III to Fidel Castro have taken advantage of the American legal system.

By Diego A. Zambrano

If you have a grievance against a foreign government, it’s almost impossible to find redress in U.S. courts. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 bars most such claims. But there’s no bar to foreign governments bringing cases as plaintiffs—and dictators have increasingly taken advantage of the U.S. legal system to pursue political ends and strengthen their rule.

As the Journal reported recently, the Chinese Communist Party has systematically used U.S. civil lawsuits as part of a “multidimensional legal war” to harass dissidents and force them to return to China. In 2016 Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan used proxy plaintiffs to file a claim in the U.S. against his main opponent, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. Venezuela’s socialist regime has litigated cases against its democratic opponent, Juan Guaidó, over Venezuelan property and business interests in this country. A top-ranking Venezuelan official sued the Journal for libel in 2016 over an article reporting he was under investigation for his possible involvement in drug trafficking; a federal judge dismissed the case in 2017.

Full Article ]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/foreign-tyranny-by-u-s-lawsuit-11599087161?mod=e2two