A judge, then an independent lawyer, and currently in prison, Julio
Ferrer Tamayo talks about the corruption of the Cuban judicial system
WALDO FERNÁNDEZ CUENCA | La Habana | 25 de Octubre de 2016 – 08:00 CEST.
Before becoming an independent lawyer, Julio Ferrer Tamayo had a long
career as a judge and attorney within the Cuban judicial system. During
those years (1988-2004) Ferrer witnessed the lack of adherence to the
law, and repeatedly corrupt practices affecting the administration of
justice in the country.
Thus began Tamayo Ferrer’s disenchantment with the Castro regime, until
in 2005 he was expelled from Bufetes Colectivos, the only entity from
which citizens are allowed to contract legal services.
Ever since Tamayo Ferrer has been constantly butting heads with the
authorities over their irregularities. The lawyer agreed to share his
experiences and opinions about corruption in Cuban society, especially
its judicial system, a scourge that prevents fair and impartial access
to justice, and that in the future will hamper the Island’s transition
towards a State governed by the rule of law.
Over the course of your career as a lawyer, how many instances of
corruption have you faced, and of what types?
The most common form I have faced has been institutionalized corruption,
coming from the top down. While working in the Court System the
authorities repeatedly pressured subordinates to violate the law,
invoking all manner of justifications, like “the good of the Revolution”
or “the good of society,” invariably in the interest of some supposed
social benefit, when the real beneficiary was a certain individual, who
could be the son of a senior leader, or a certain civil servant they
wanted to protect.
Any manifestation of corruption does damage. What, in your opinion, is
the worst or the most widespread in Cuba?
I think the worst thing is, as I said before, institutionalized
corruption. There is another kind: when an official working at an
institution commits a corrupt act for certain personal reasons, or in
the pursuit of profit, whether to benefit himself or someone else.This
is easier to combat and eliminate. Institutionalized corruption, on the
other hand, is especially harmful, because in these cases the highest
authorities of a body are the ones issuing instructions to violate the
law or to protect someone illicitly.
Can you cite any specific examples?
A good example is straight from my own life. I have suffered it,
personally. The first time I was accused of a crime I did not commit,
and for which I was imprisoned for 8 months, from 2005 to 2006, was a
result of instructions from the highest levels of the Justice
administration; Arnel Proenza Rizo, of the Western Regional Military
Tribunal, acknowledged in private (and I was able to find out) that the
president of the Supreme Court had issued orders to sanction me, at all
I filed a complaint at that time with the National Assembly, and have
yet to receive any response.
My case is not an isolated one. This is common practice in Cuba’s
justice administration. Legal proceedings are subject to instructions
issued by high-ranking officials, and judges’ decisions depend on those
orders, not on legislation.
What is your assessment of the current state of corruption in the country?
I believe that corruption in the country has been on the rise, and
become an everyday phenomenon in Cubans’ lives.
And my assertion is supported by what the authorities themselves
responsible for detecting and combating the scourge have reported; in
June of this year both the Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza,
and the Comptroller General, Gladys Bejerano, at a Council of Ministers
meeting, recognized the tax evasion perpetrated during the first half of
the year, this being divulged to the regime’s official press. Figures of
102 million Cuban pesos were cited, and thousands in convertible currency.
The Comptroller noted the difficulties they encountered in their work
with the authorities and administrative staff, who often obstruct audit
and internal control work precisely because they are corrupt themselves.
What do you think are the main causes of judicial corruption in Cuba?
Many people believe that one of the main causes of corruption in the
country is economic hardship, but I think that, more than economic
hardship (an element that it is impossible to ignore and omit) this
phenomenon is widespread due to the indolence of officials in terms of
solving the problems raised by citizens.
The other cause is the impunity enjoyed by the authorities, and state
officials’ frequent lack of respect for socialist legality.
How do you think corruption could be fought and penalized, in its
The current Criminal Code sets down several crimes whose prosecution
would combat the phenomenon of corruption, including bribery, illicit
enrichment and embezzlement, among others. In 2009 the Office of the
Comptroller General of the Republic was created with the aim of
combating this phenomenon through Law 107, which supports the creation
of this body and provides a definition of administrative corruption,
widespread in the state sector.
But this law has a fundamental loophole: it exempts the highest
officials of the Central State Administration – like the Attorney
General of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State and
Ministers – from criminal responsibility.
By excluding these officials from its purview, a severe state of
impunity is generated, and corruption commences at the highest levels.
How do you evaluate the damage done by corruption to the Cuban judicial
It is extremely pernicious and devastating to the survival of the system
at a critical time like this. Fidel Castro himself recognized it in
2005, when he recognized that “corruption could destroy the Revolution,”
while Raúl Castro has likened it to a “counterrevolution.”
Corruption is toxic, and undermines institutions, even the strongest ones.
Judicial corruption merits special consideration, and I don´t say that
just because I’m lawyer, but because I believe that a country in which
there is no respect for the law cannot advance in any way. If the first
ones to violate the Constitution and laws in Cuba are the judicial
authorities themselves, it is very difficult for other citizens to
respect and comply with legislation.
I believe that the most difficult thing for Cubans to receive is
effective and law-based justice. If a society does not uphold respect
for the law by all, it cannot flourish, and this creates an ideal
breeding ground for corruption.
Source: A judge, then an independent lawyer, and currently in prison,
Julio Ferrer Tamayo talks about the corruption of the Cuban judicial
system | Diario de Cuba –