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Lawyers Doing Bad

Lawyers with the Inter-American Bar Association were proudly boasting this weekend, Tweets in tow, about the IABA’s participation in a conference in the Communist Party-run law firm, Organización Nacional De Bufetes Colectivos (ONBC). By the way, the ONBC is the only law firm officially allowed by the regime. Independent lawyers or law firms are not allowed. If you try to practice law outside the state-administered system, you’ll end up in a lot of trouble.

Next summer, the IABA plans to host what it is calling a “historic” opportunity in Cuba. Cuba will serve as the host country for the IABA annual “Legal Framework for Investment Opportunities and the Opening of New Markets in Latin America.”  Really? Of all places the IABA could host this conference and it opts for a crooked police state run by socialists and communists? Of the 59 countries in the Western Hemisphere, there are about 40 democracies. The IABA could do better.

Nota Bene: IABA lawyers may want to make sure that the hotel they are using for the event is not a property subject to a U.S. certified claim. If it is, choose another venue. Better yet, pull the conference out of Cuba.

So why all this fuss about lawyers? If you’re a lawyer in Cuba, and one that cares about the rule of law, freedom, etc., it matters a bit.

The IABA, an entity that has been around since the 1940s, should know better than to raise the profile of the Communist Party by hosting conferences in Cuba. It lends the regime a patina of legitimacy that it has not earned. While it may afford lawyers in Cuba a venue to interact with fellow lawyers from around the Americas, it will do a lot more harm than good. Before it goes down this road of engagement with the state-run legal profession, the IABA should dust off its charter and review its founding principles.

Some of the express reasons for having the IABA include the promotion of the “[r]ule of Law and the administration of justice,” “preserve and defend human rights and liberties,” “guarantee to the peoples of the hemisphere the free exercise of their civil and political rights under democratic principles,” as well as “uphold the honor of the legal profession.” Kowtowing to the regime in Cuba does none of this, nor does it help Cuban lawyers find their voice in this really difficult period in Cuban history. Sponsor the conference in Miami, Florida. I’m certain Cuban lawyers, under new travel rules, would be willing to visit with colleagues in Washington, DC, city where the IADB has its headquarters.

The independent lawyers I’ve interacted with in Cuba are unanimous about one thing: the complete absence of rule of law in Cuba. If you’re attorney, think about that for a minute. Without rule of law, civilized society ceases to exist. I’ll leave it to you to conjure in your minds what a civilized society means to you, however, it should be a few notches above a Lord of the Flies existence. Of course, Cuba is at or below a Lord of the Flies existence. As it must be. A communist police state has no use for the rule of law. For them the law is a weapon, not a tool for good.

For the Communist Party of Cuba the law is a nuisance, at best, that they pay lip service to advance whatever it is that they need at any give time to make sure political survival. Totalitarian regimes have been doing this for centuries. Destroying rule of law has especially been in vogue in leftist states that are communist, or regressed for a while to socialism, throughout the Western Hemisphere. The IABA should seriously reconsider its Cuba position and 2016 conference location. Start by giving independent lawyers a voice and make clear to the regime that it must change its ways or will not be part of facilitating its hold on power.


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