Under the administration of President Raúl Castro
, Cuba is seeking more foreign investment through international joint ventures. An overall goal is to raise the standard of living by increasing income from tourism and other sources while maintaining the best outcomes of the Cuban revolution, including universal health care and free education up to the level of advanced degrees. In November, 2011, the government announced
that Cubans could buy and sell property--to other Cubans. Small businesses, including in-home restaurants, called "paladars," are encouraged, but, there's a limit on how many rooms one can rent, how many taxis one can own, etc.
As a condition of our trip, we all agreed to do professional research, which included: a seminar on the Cuban legal framework with Professor Laura Gomez of UCLA School of Law; a visit with attorneys who specialize in international arbitration at the Bufete de Servicios Especializado, a Cuban law firm; and seminars with Cuban judges and law professors organized by Dorys Quintana Cruz of the Union Nacional de Juristas de Cuba
. During our visit, the National Congress of Cuban Attorneys was taking place. We were told that they were being assigned the task of working out the legal arrangements for the changing economic landscape.
We also visited Las Terrazas
, in the Pinar Del Rio province. In this now bucolic "biosphere" reserve, six million trees were planted to restore land that was stripped for agriculture during the era of Spanish colonialism. At lunch at the Casa del Campesino, we were introduced to "ropa vieja," a classic Cuban dish of shredded meat prepared over a wood-burning stove.
We brought gifts to the Coco Project, which provides art and handicraft lessons to
seniors and children in Havana's El Serro
neighborhood. In addition to art supplies, we distributed baseball caps donated by the law firm of Bryan Cave and the LA Dodgers.
Projecto Coco is led by art students Lisandra Ramirez Bernal and Osmeivy Ortega, a husband and wife team who volunteer their time to teach the students and elders. A few days later, this dedicated couple met us at the Instituto Superior de Arte, the national art academy, which was built on the sweeping grounds of the pre-revolutionary Havana Country Club.
Recycle, reuse and reclaim....
Alma Robinson, Executive Director
California Lawyers for the Arts