By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Aside from being a writer, I have had other dreams in my life, like any other human being. One of these dreams was to become a distinguished lawyer. I’ve always been drawn to Law, so when I left the Bautista Theological Seminary (where I would have become an evangelical pastor) and the Christian faith by default, I enrolled myself onto a Long-Distance law degree.
In case you don’t know, this means I didn’t have to attend classes, I didn’t have any teachers. It’s a course full of subjects that you have to study for a certain period and then you have to take a public exam. In the meantime, you look up the bibliography and study on your own.
I graduated in 2004 and had the opportunity to start practicing as a lawyer at the National Organization of Collective Law Offices (ONBC), the only legal organization where you can practice law in Cuba.
Two years before this, I had signed the Varela Project* petition and was really quite concerned about my work situation, especially after two State Security agents appeared to inform the Law Office’s Board. However, that didn’t stop me from practicing law in peace.
I loved Law, especially civil and criminal law. I devoured every piece of related literature that fell into my hands: Books, legal provisions, court settlements, rulings, comparative Law, etc.
I became a walking encyclopedia. I began to build up my own clientele base, earn a reputation, but I never charged more than the established rate (maybe because I came from humble beginnings or because I didn’t have material ambitions), even though I believe that attorney fees in Cuba are miserably low. I might have accepted a gift that was never asked for once or twice, but it was never anything significant.
At the same time, I managed to become an assistant professor at the Universidad de Pinar del Rio, where I was able to teach and earn a bit of extra cash. I taught History of the State and Law in Cuba, General Civil Law, Property Law, Contract Law and General Criminal Law.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly well, in spite of my rebellious nature which never contained itself when it came to expressing opinions. I was an idealistic young man back then. I thought that if every word or act was within the Law, then nothing could hurt me.
There were four of us young colleagues, who were seen as the “fifth columns”. I will never forget when Army General Raul Castro called upon the nation to debate problems in Cuba, in 2008. He was asking for proposals to improve the country. Debates were held in every workplace.
You could only criticize and propose things within the framework of “The Revolution”, of course, but my colleagues and I were brave. For a moment, I thought that I was in the heart of Miami, where Cubans speak their minds freely (especially the many who don’t have the courage to say what they think here in Cuba).
We laid out the main problems, we weren’t scared by the presence of a Communist Party official and we spoke about the lack of democracy, of economic, civil and political freedoms. Nobody could keep us quiet.
Months later, my contract with the University was terminated. The reason? After insisting for one, the degree coordinator gave it to me.
“Pedro, I’m sorry to tell you that two people from the Party came and told us that you can’t continue on here, as you can’t be trusted to teach classes.”
I was also kicked out of the Organization, supposedly for violating the fee rates and verbally abusing the Director, a “revolutionary” fanatic who lives abroad now. I was an undesirable in the Law Organization’s archives.
However, to tell you the truth, I’m just a rebellious man with an old and shattered dream.
*The purpose of the Varela Project was to circulate a proposal of law advocating for democratic political reforms within Cuba, such as the establishment of freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections, freedom of religion, freedom to start private businesses, and amnesty for political prisoners. – Wikipedia