Academic Collaboration as Legitimization of Authoritarianism

Photo: elTOQUE.

Academic Collaboration as Legitimization of Authoritarianism

8 / enero / 2024

Between November 15th and 17th, the International Conference on Legal Clinics and their Contribution to Legal Education was held in Havana. The event was organized by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) in cooperation with the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana, the National Organization of Collective Law Firms (ONBC), the University of Valencia, and with the co-sponsorship of the Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Asdi). On this occasion, close collaboration took place with professionals from Cuban official institutions such as the National Union of Cuban Jurists, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Cuba, the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Havana, the National Organization of Collective Law Firms, the Provincial People's Courts, and the National Assembly.

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) is an academic and research institution with offices, programs, and convening power spanning around 40 countries. RWI's mission is to combine evidence-based human rights research with direct engagement with international organizations, governments, national human rights institutions, the judiciary, local and regional authorities, universities, and the business sector to achieve human rights change for all.

However, the organizations with which it has collaborated closely in Havana, designed and executed mass sentences with clear political biases, against protesters of the days of July 11th and 12th, 2021 throughout the country. Currently, around 787 people are in detention, facing sentences of up to 14 years, with charges ranging from public disorder to sedition—an "interpretation" of the law without adherence to the reality and numerous grievances that led to nationwide peaceful demonstrations.

In the context of academic collaboration, legal and institutional agreements over the past year have sought to legitimize and clean the image of the Cuban penal apparatus. A clear example of this was the 1st International Congress of Comparative and Constitutional Law (Cuba Con-Para) held at the University of Havana and the Hotel Nacional de Cuba last April. In the preceding months, the XV International Meeting on Penal Sciences (2023) and the III Event on Legality, Law, and Society were also held, with the participation of institutions linked in international academic networks such as the Institute of Legal Research of UNAM, CLACSO, FLACSO, and LASA. In the same period, the XVIII International Symposium on Social Communication was held. Also, regarding institutional reforms and social change, from March 8th to 10th of this year, the Platform for Dialogue was organized by the Center for Advanced Latin American Studies (CALAS) at the University of Havana, focusing on "Climate Change, Inequality, and Socio-Ecological Transformation. Challenges for Green Fiscal Policies." Havana also hosted the congress of the Latin American Center for Administration for Development (CLAD) this week.

These academic forums have served as platforms for legitimizing and disseminating the official message of the Cuban State, including the camouflage and concealment of the crisis and repression faced by society. It is essential to emphasize that Cuba has signed legal and political cooperation agreements with non-democratic governments, including Belarus and Russia. In March of this year, agreements were signed to strengthen legal cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela, attended by the attorneys general of both republics, Yamila Peña Ojeda and Tareck William Saab, respectively.

These agreements aim to legitimize both external discourse and internal regulations on legal matters, such as the Law of Sovereignty and Food Security, as well as the New Penal Code and the Law of Penal Execution, designed to strengthen security and control on social networks. The first is known for camouflaging the lack of political will to ensure sustainable access to food by putting on paper aspirations far from the reality that the country is going through, the second for tightening the fence on independent initiatives, autonomous exercises of citizens, as well as how to strengthen state surveillance.

In the last two years, GAPAC has dedicated itself to systematically monitoring the influence of Cuban political discourse in the Latin American region, its civil society, academic networks, and educational centers. Therefore, we alert about the convening of these events, intensified after July 11th, which seek to endorse authoritarian power, generating false appearances of democratic normality and openness in Cuba compared to other governments.


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