Fidel, the Lawyer Who Never Won a Case / Rene Gomez Manzano / HemosOido
Posted on March 6, 2014
The awarding of the National Law Prize to Fidel Castro—who abolished the
judicial branch, established “revolutionary courts,” did away with
procedural guarantees, and outlawed unfettered advocacy—is a mockery of
I acknowledge that when I read that item my first thought was: “But
hadn’t he already been given that?” We know that in these totalitarian
regimes dominated by Marxism-Leninism, the bosses, by virtue of being
that, are destined for all the distinctions, recognitions, and awards
that have been or might be given. That the alumnus Fidel Alejandro
Castro Ruz had not been previously considered when this Prize was first
granted probably cost some bureaucrat in the judicial sector a good
Now that it is an accomplished fact we should ask: What objective
reasons exist for granting it? Was it based on the person’s performance
before or after coming to power? The dilemma warrants that we briefly
address these issues in order to give a response.
The professional practice of the older Castro after graduating as a
lawyer was practically nil. In this he is no different from other
figures who have gotten into history carrying a law degree.
Internationally: Robespierre, Karl Marx, Lenin. In Cuba: Agramonte,
Céspedes, Martí. These are just a few examples.
Of course I’m not making value judgments, simply naming people who, for
better or worse, have earned a place in history. “Lawyer” is the title
that is generally used to describe those figures. Although the
appellation is not false, it is not really accurate nor illuminating. To
more accurately describe what is common in these characters, we have to
use a slightly longer phrase: “Lawyers without cases.”
This last characteristic is what distinguishes these beings. Unlike
their colleagues, their activity is not devoted to drafting legal
documents, outlining legal theories, or obtaining the acquittal of an
accused. No; in the universities they were outfitted with the same
tools, but they use them, if at all, to achieve more ambitious and
broader political or social objectives. If they represent a clientele,
it is political and not professional.
In the case of Fidel Castro, the grantors argue that the Prize is
granted “to mark the 60th anniversary of his self-proclaimed defense
’History will absolve me.’” According to Granma, the obliging colleagues
of the association of legal officials described this document as “a
seamless legal piece . . . that has transcended the boundaries of space
We know that if anything has characterized the honoree, it is his
overwhelming verbosity (rightly documented in The Guinness Book of
Records). But the tens of thousands of pages containing his discourses,
such as History Will Absolve Me, cannot be found anywhere else; they are
not quoted in history books or cited alongside philosophers of past
centuries. Haven’t the obsequious jurists noticed? Can’t they draw any
conclusions from this?
In his plea, Castro criticized the mechanism (reminiscent of the classic
tale of the chicken and the egg) established in the Constitutional Laws
of the Batista regime: The President of the Republic appointed the
ministers, and these in turn elected him. The curious thing is that
after the climb to power of the revolutionary team in 1959, the Basic
Law established exactly the same vicious mechanism.
A detailed description of the illegal acts perpetrated by the recipient
during the scores of years of his absolute rule would require a
collection of books. He did away with the judicial branch, established
“revolutionary courts” composed of guerrilla fighters lacking legal
education, eliminated procedural guarantees, outlawed the unfettered
practice of law, and converted the prosecution into a body guided by
political criteria. In a word, he dismantled the solid Cuban legal system.
If the bureaucrats of the Union of Cuban Jurists consider that the
perpetrator of such acts deserves the National Law Prize, they are
saying very clearly what they really think about this award, which they
both created and bestowed.
Cubanet, March 6, 2014 / René Gómez Manzano
Translated by Tomás A.
Source: Fidel, the Lawyer Who Never Won a Case / Rene Gomez Manzano /
HemosOido | Translating Cuba –