Cuban Law and Legal Research: A Snapshot During the Deshielo (Congelado?) – Monday, July 17, 2017, 9:45 a.m., Austin Convention Center, Room 18AB

By Julienne Grant

IMG_9721 (003)“The history of the United States and Cuba encompass[es] revolution and conflict, struggle and sacrifice, retribution and now reconciliation. It is time now for us to leave the past behind. It is time for us to look forward to the future together.”

-President Barack Obama, March 22, 2016, Havana, Cuba

 

“Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” 

-President Donald J. Trump, June 16, 2017, Miami, Florida

 

“Again, the United States Government resorts to coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to intensify the blockade, in force since February 1962, which not only causes damage and deprivation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to the development of our economy, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, inciting international rejection.” (Julienne E. Grant, translation)

-Declaration of the Revolutionary Government, June 16, 2017, Havana, Cuba

 

When I drafted a proposal last fall for an AALL program on Cuba, I envisioned a continuation of the dramatic deshielo (thaw) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Specifically, I assumed there would be a progression of the rapprochement that former President Obama alluded to in his speech in Havana on March 22, 2016.  What I didn’t foresee while crafting the program were the most recent proclamations by President Trump and the Cuban government.  Trump’s June 16th announcement in Miami that backtracks some of the previous administration’s initiatives has halted the thaw a bit. As such, this program is perhaps more appropriately a snapshot during the deshielo congelado (frozen thaw). However U.S.-Cuba relations can now be characterized, though, Cuba is on the cusp of dramatic changes, and it’s a hot topic.

Please join Dr. Marisol Florén-Romero (Florida International University), Teresa Miguel-Stearns (Yale), and me (Loyola University Chicago) as we first explore this enigmatic jurisdiction from a law librarian’s perspective. Our program will include a brief overview of the somewhat unwieldly nomenclature of Cuban law, as well as a short assessment of English-language sources that can provide insight into Cuba’s legal landscape. In addition, Teresa will offer a quick summary of her experience purchasing legal materials in Havana last year.  Accompanying the program is a useful 26-page handout that will be available for download.

Our featured speaker, however, is Professor Jorge R. Piñon, whose talk is titled “Cuba Business Scenarios:  Challenges and Opportunities,” certainly a timely topic in what is an extremely fluid political and economic environment.   Professor Piñon is the Interim Director of The University of Texas at Austin, Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy, and the Director of its Latin America & Caribbean Energy Program.

Professor Piñon is also recognized as an expert on Cuba’s energy sector, as well as on the island’s future economic transitional challenges and opportunities.  He is an advisor and a member of the Cuba Task Force at The Brookings Institution and co-author of “Cuba’s Energy Future: Strategic Approaches to Cooperation,” Brookings Institution Press, 2010.

Hope to see you on Monday for what is sure to be a lively, engaging, and enlightening hour!

 

Cuba 101: It’s Complicated

Cuba - La Revolucion es invencible sign

By: Julienne E. Grant

I spent the week of May 21 in Cuba. Right now, the U.S. government forbids its citizens to visit Cuba as tourists per se, but we can travel there within the scope of 12 permitted categories. I joined an organized tour that included some fascinating “person-to-person” exchanges, as well as the opportunity to stay for a few nights in a casa particular (private home, like a B & B) in Cienfuegos. Our group also made side trips to Santa Clara, Trinidad, and Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía.

Before embarking on this adventure, I had spent a great deal of time reading about Cuba, but I truly did not know what to expect on the ground.  I knew that I was in for a wild ride, however, when the power went out twice while waiting for my luggage at the Havana airport.  I learned quickly that Cuba is a complicated place, and it’s a complicated destination to visit. None of the challenges, however, bothered me too much; I just had to make some adjustments, stay alert, and be flexible. Here are some of my initial observations:

RS15Cuba_275.jpgThe Economy:  There seem to be three economies operating in Cuba. First, there is a thriving black market.  I think you can get about anything you want through it, if you have the right amount of money. Secondly, there is a flourishing tourism economy, as evidenced by the recent influx of high-end retailers like Gucci.  Tourists actually use a different currency (CUCs—pronounced “kooks”) than locals who spend money with the Cuban peso. The government runs much of the tourism industry through a military unit (Gaviota), and interesting that the most affluent Havana neighborhood I saw is purportedly filled with high-ranking military.  The third economy is the actual domestic one that involves everyday Cubans.  This economy is not in great shape, and there is evidence of it everywhere.  Buildings are crumbling, there is both urban and rural poverty, and there are shortages of basic consumer goods, including food.

El Bloqueo:  We repeatedly heard from Cubans that the U.S. Embargo is responsible for their struggling economy, and it is, for a good part. The Embargo has certainly been punishing on the Cuban people, and I think it needs to be lifted.  The Embargo, however, is not the only root of Cuba’s problems.

Cuba - Chevy imageTransportation:  Riding around Havana in an almendrón (vintage car) is a blast, but the almendrones are primarily for tourists. The transportation infrastructure overall is in terrible condition, as buses are packed and limited in number, and trains apparently haven’t been upgraded much since the 1959 Revolution. We actually saw a lot of people hitchhiking and simply standing on roadsides with money clutched in their hands as an offer for a ride.  There is definitely a kind of makeshift ride-sharing system in place, but again, you have to have money to use it.  Just as an aside, our tour bus was exceptionally nice.

Political Imagery:  I knew that Fidel Castro shunned statues of himself, and I didn’t see any of him, although his image is certainly not absent from the landscape. I didn’t see any images of Raúl, but I did see some of Hugo Chávez, including an almost life-size painting at the iconic Hotel Nacional.  (That hotel, incidentally, which is full of tourists and sometimes fab celebs, is owned and operated by the Cuban government.)

The legacy and image of Che Guevara actually seems to be ingrained most solidly in the Cuban psyche.  Images of Che are everywhere—on walls, clothes, jewelry, and in stone.  We went to Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara, which was impressive in terms of size and aesthetics.

Other popular images in Cuba are those of José Martí and Camilo Cienfuegos.  Cienfuegos was a revolutionary in Fidel’s inner circle who presumably died when a flight he was on disappeared in October 1959.  Both Che and Camilo died young during the early years of the Revolution (before things got really bad economically during the “Special Period” in the 1990s); this may explain at least part of their continued appeal.

Education:  Universal healthcare and education are probably the Revolution’s greatest achievements.  Education is compulsory through the 9th grade, and books and uniforms are all provided by the government.  Parents take the education requirement very seriously, and they get their kids to school.  Revolutionary principles are emphasized, but schools now focus on English-language training, instead of Russian. According to UNESCO, Cuba has a literacy rate of almost 100 percent, and it showed.

As far as higher ed, there seems to be an unfortunate phenomenon occurring in terms of financial compensation for professionals with degrees.  In general, Cubans can seemingly make more money in the tourism industry—as guides, innkeepers, restauranteurs, and taxi drivers, so there is not much of a financial incentive to attend university, even though it’s free.  Our Cuban tour guide had an engineering degree, and so did the señora running my casa particular.

 

Cuba - Dance

The Arts:  Explosive and powerful.  These are the best words to describe the arts in Cuba.  Music is everywhere—in the streets, restaurants, clubs, and bars—covering all genres.  I was completely enamoured with the music and purchased a number of CDs.  The dancing was also fabulous—athletic, creative, and edgy.  We saw a modern dance troupe’s rehearsal and talked to the performers afterwards, as well as their Swiss manager (yes, un suizo). These young people are top-notch artists, akin to those in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater here.  The visual arts are also stunning, and there are lots of wonderful galleries—particularly in Old Havana and Trinidad—as well as the impressive Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  It is remarkable to me how terrific these artists are, given some very challenging conditions, including run-down equipment and practice space, limited or no A/C, and a lack of access to art supplies.

 

Rum:  Lots of it, Havana Club.  It was good, and so were the mojitos.  For an interesting overview of the legal battles over the Havana Club brand name, see “The Rum War” (60 Minutes, Jan. 1, 2017).

Cuba - Havana Club botles.jpg

 

El Béisbol:   Baseball is HUGE in Cuba, and there are stadiums everywhere. Apparently some MLB games are now being shown on Cuban TV, although days after their actual completion, and without the participation of Cuban players who defected.  Videos of MLB games are available, however, loaded on various media and sold undergroud.  Telling Cubans I was a Chicagoan, and a fan of Los Cachorros (Cubs), resulted in a lot of smiles and nods.

Wi-Fi:  Wi-Fi is provided by the state-run telecommunications provider, ETESCA.  We had it available in the Hotel Nacional, but otherwise had to locate Wi-Fi “hotspots.”  It costs about $2 U.S. an hour to use Wi-Fi at these places (note that the average Cuban earns the equivalent of about $20-$30 U.S. per month).   University students are granted a monthly allotment of Wi-Fi megabytes, but access is highly restricted in terms of content.  (For an interesting read on how the student access works, plus some student commentary, see “Facebook ‘a la Cubana,’ la alternativa de los universitarios” (CUBANET, June 6, 2017)). Wi-Fi is supposedly now available in some private residences, but overall the island is not cyber friendly.

Cuba - PanfiloPánfilo:  Almost everyone in Cuba is familiar with comedian Luís Silva and his popular Pánfilo character portrayed on the weekly TV program, Vivir del Cuento (roughly, Live by your Wits).   Pánfilo is a retired man who valiantly and humorously faces the challenges of daily life in Cuba, ranging from product shortages to the confusion of the infamous ration books. (Cubans are each provided with a small ration of food staples each month.) Before President Obama visited Cuba last year, he and Silva as Pánfilo taped a mock phone conversation between the two that was hilarious.  The President also made a cameo appearance on Vivir del Cuento that was a big hit with Cubans. In any event, the quirky Pánfilo provides an outlet for Cubans to vent about their daily frustrations with the regime through humor, and frankly I was surprised to see this type of programming on state-run TV.

Conclusion:  The Revolution is still very much alive, but seems to be fading into the past.  Raúl Castro turned 86 on June 3, and I think he and his inner circle are out of touch with what’s happening on the street. Cubans (or perhaps Cuban-Americans) on our Havana-Miami flight applauded when we took off (and again when we landed), and apparently this rather blatant display of dissatisfaction is not uncommon on the Havana-Miami routes. My overall impression, however, is that Cubans themselves are worn down, but are remarkably resilient, and are still incredibly proud of being Cuban.  Time will certainly tell.  Perhaps the long-term legacy of the Cuban Revolution will be its achievements in education and healthcare, but whether there will be a musical called “Castro” down the road is questionable…How does the son of an immigrant Spaniard born on a Caribbean island grow up to spark a revolution?….“The world’s gonna know your name.  What’s your name, man?.” (Where is Lin-Manuel Miranda when you need him?).

Cuba - Jose Marti quote on wall

 

Recap: Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting

By Alyson Drake

This year’s Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting was a fantastic opportunity to hear from our FCIL-SIS colleagues on interesting topics and interest group projects.

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jenJennifer Allison from the European Law Interest Group kicked off the meeting with an informative discussion of recent changes to German asylum law.  First, Jennifer explained that asylum for the politically persecuted is a constitutional right in Germany, under Grundgesetz article 16a.  She highlighted three 2016 laws related to German asylum law:

  • The Data Exchange Improvement Act, aimed at improving procedures for the exchange of data between government groups and other entities dealing with refugees;
  • The Act Introducing an Accelerated Asylum Procedure, which explains how accelerated asylum procedure will work for those cases where a fraudulent application for asylum is expected or where there’s a potential risk to the safety of the country by an applicant; and
  • The Act Simplifying Expulsion of Foreign Criminals and the Broadened Suspension of Refugee Recognition for Criminal Asylum Applicant, which amends earlier asylum laws.

She also discussed the Integration Act, the latest asylum legislation, which has yet to come into force and encourages asylum seekers and grantees to participate in training programs to help integrate them into German culture.

german law guideJennifer also provided a handout with various German law sources and other helpful sources, which can be found on her German Law Research Guide; it includes a section on German asylum law.  She also highly recommended following Jenny Gesley, who is the German Law Specialist at the Library of Congress, on Twitter for updates relating to German law.  One other resource she highly recommended is the Linguee German-English Dictionary, which gives good examples of legal terminology in context.

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Next up were Juice Lee and Steven Alexander de Costa, speaking on behalf of the Latin America Interest Group.  They presented the IG’s progress on the “Guide to Legal Research on Cuba.”  The guide will include information on Cuba’s history and Cuban law.  It will also include both Spanish and English language resources. The expected completion date of the guide is September 1st, 2016, and the group is still deciding on where to publish the guide after completion.

Steven discussed a little about his experiences working on the legal history portion of the guide.  He explained that the project was unique because materials relating to Cuba’s legal history weren’t widely available, particularly in English.  He noted that he learned some interesting facts about Cuba’s legal history, including that the modern history of Cuba began with the 1959 revolution, and that the legal system entwines both civil and socialist law, as well as some common law.  Interestingly, Cuban law still owes a lot to Spanish civil codes.

cuban lawIn the discussion that followed the update, it was noted that LLMC is currently working on digitizing approximately 200 Cuban materials, and that the National Library of Cuba has joined to cause and is helping find rare titles and more materials.  Teresa Miguel-Stearns also briefly discussed her recent trip to Cuba.

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The third speaker was Yemisi Dina from the Africa Interest Group, updating the group on completing phase one of her the South Western Nigeria digitization project.  One recent development is that she’s created a blog, digesting cases before customary courts in two cities in South Western Nigeria.

Yemisi shared several observations with the group:

  • yemisiCustomary law has a future in the legal system of Nigeria and other African countries. Customary courts are disorganized, but the government is interested. Yemisi noted that the government put a structure together for her to visit.
  • The resolution process is open to everyone, not just certain demographic groups. Yemisi observed that educated people are using the customary courts to resolve their disputes.
  • The majority of issues before the customary courts are divorce; rent; and child custody. Yemisi mentioned that land disputes used to be before the courts a great deal, but that those disputes have died down.
  • The courts face several challenges, including financial issues, as they are not funded by the government; limited resources, such as courts having only one staff person working at the court; and a lack of technology.

Yemisi welcomes comments about and suggestions for her project.

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perkinsFinally, Steven Perkins from the Indigenous Peoples Interest Group gave an interesting talk on some of the issues regarding DNA testing of Indigenous Peoples.

First, Steven discussed some of the different types of DNA testing that can take place, including the testing that can be done to determine the ethnic groups from which a person gets their DNA.  Next, Steven provided a brief history of the relationship between scientists and Native American tribes, namely that scientists have been analyzing tribe blood over the last 50 years, but that some challenges arose in how scientists were using their samples.  Scientists conducted research beyond the scope of what they told the tribes would be done, gave samples out to other scientists, and moved around the blood samples to different schools.  As such, the tribe had to set some boundaries and recollect the blood that had been passed around.  As such, tribes have created a guide to decide how to approach these situations.  The guide is found on the National Congress of American Indians website.  Most notably, the tribes keep the data and keep custody of the samples, and have procedures for determining whether a person is part of a particular tribe.

Thank you to all the speakers for presenting such a robust Jurisdictions IG meeting!

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups To Meet On Sunday

FCIL-SIS invites all AALL conference attendees to join us for our Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting this Sunday, from 12:30pm to 2:00pm, in the Hyatt-Water Tower Room.  The program will include substantive presentations from several of our interest groups, as well as 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for each group to discuss their plans for the coming year.

The agenda for the meeting is as follows:

SUNDAY July 17, 2016

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions IG Joint Meeting (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Indigenous Peoples, Customary & Religious Law, Roman Law) (Hyatt-Water Tower)

Meeting Topics:

  • Welcome and Intro (Susan Gualtier, Louisiana State University School of Law Library) – 5 minutes
  • European Law: Recent Developments in German Law Related to Asylum and Refugees: A Brief Overview for Law Librarians (Jennifer Alison, Harvard Law School Library) – 20 minutes
  • Latin America: Cuban Legal Research Guide (Julienne Grant, Loyola University Chicago Law Library, et al.) – 10 minutes
  • Africa: Updates of the Digitization Case Law Project from South Western Nigeria (Yemisi Dina, Osgood Hall Law School Library) – 20 minutes
  • Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Peoples and DNA Testing: Friend or Foe? (Steven Perkins, Greenberg Traurig, LLP) – 20 minutes
  • Individual Interest Groups business meetings – 15 minutes

Everyone is welcome to attend the presentations and to check out our interest groups, so please spread the word to anyone interested in these areas of foreign law.  FCIL-SIS looks forward to seeing you there!

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Forthcoming: “Guide to Legal Research in Cuba,” By the Latin American Law Interest Group

The Latin American Law Interest Group is excited to announce its forthcoming publication, “Guide to Legal Research in Cuba” (edited by Julienne Grant, Sergio Stone, and Marisol Florén-Romero.)

The purpose of the Guide is to provide a snapshot of Cuban law and legal research as they exist in the political fluidity of the moment.  Historical context will also be included. Research for the project in general has been painstakingly difficult. Both Spanish and English-language resources will be covered.

Twelve authors have contributed to the project, which is currently in the editorial phase.  The IG expects to complete the guide by September 1, after which it will be submitted to a journal or published in open access.

Want to learn more? The Latin American Law Interest Group will give a brief presentation on the development of the research guide at the FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions IG Joint Meeting, to be held on Sunday, July 17, 2016, 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM, in the Hyatt-Water Tower Room. Presentation by Steven Alexandre da Costa (Boston University School of Law) and Juice Lee (Northeastern University School of Law.

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