Judge in Cuba to have social media-savvy job

Photo A government-appointed independent judge in Havana is about to have a new assignment, and it seems unlikely that it will please opponents of the island’s communist system: the official New York Times has…

Judge in Cuba to have social media-savvy job

Photo

A government-appointed independent judge in Havana is about to have a new assignment, and it seems unlikely that it will please opponents of the island’s communist system: the official New York Times has confirmed that Mariano Valentín Lleras, a high-profile dissident, will no longer be allowed to speak on freedom of speech after taking the position of head of a court-appointed disciplinary commission for Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

According to the Times, the commission will now be the legal and social sphere’s main discipline body, and will be responsible for monitoring the activities of various social, political, and cultural activities, including those not affiliated with the government. The move is likely to be viewed as a consequence of Lleras’s prominent role as one of Cuba’s and the world’s best-known bloggers — he is one of a dozen dissidents who travel frequently to other countries as part of a project run by the Open Society Justice Initiative. That gives him special access to the rest of the world, a position that affords him an ideal situation to gain more knowledge of aspects of the rest of the world — like Cuba’s crackdown on press freedom.

Zineb el-Sharabi, a French journalist who has spent several weeks in Cuba recently, told the Times that any decision to take away Lleras’s legal commentary could be detrimental to many young people in Cuba, who are growing up accustomed to the news that comes through the internet:

“They are discovering that they can do so much more than just have their noses rubbed in things by that young guy sitting in a seat next to them.”

Lleras seemed to feel the same, in an interview with the BBC:

“I’m very concerned because I don’t want to miss the chance to tell the truth,” he told the British broadcaster. “It’s a shame that I’m even a target of a judge for defending press freedom in this independent tribunal that I believe has democratic legitimacy.”

In a recent story in the Havana Times, Lleras highlighted the complexities of his position. He said he was “personally committed to write about the truth and to speak about the truth to people who are victims,” but under Cuban law, if his writings about “drugs, sex education and the ruling communist family” violate the “socialist values” of his employers, he could be arrested and punished, by a possible 15 days in a camp.

“I want to defend every true bit of the truth,” he said. “Therefore I need to keep this desire alive by being an independent, courageous, legal writer.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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