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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013

President’s Message Robert R. Baugh From the President Key Names and Events: First, to understand Cuba today, you must know a few important names and dates that come up in numerous conversations and are seen in monuments throughout the country: Jose Marti (1853-1895): Cuban Nationalist whose writings in support of Cuban independence fueled the 1895 revolution against Spain. Marti was considered the ideological leader of the Cuban people, based on his extensive writings. His works have been adopted by Castro and used in support of the revolution. 1898: Th e sinking of the American ship, the Maine. While the cause of the explosion that sunk the Maine is still debated, the loss of this ship and 266 of her men led to America’s intervention in the confl ict that became known as the Spanish American War. While in Havana, our group was shown at least three diff erent places in the Havana harbor that supposedly were the location of the Maine at the time of its sinking. Fidel Castro: Led the Revolution that overthrew the Batista government in 1959. Castro ruled Cuba until he resigned in 2008 in poor health. His brother Raul Castro took over power and remains the Cuban president today. Che Guevara: Helped Castro wage the guerrilla war against the Batista government. In Cuba, Guevara’s image is seen everywhere. Th e only explanation I have for why you see his image more than Castro’s is that Guevara died young and has become a symbol of the Cuban revolution. Also, the fact that Guevara is more photogenic than Castro probably doesn’t hurt. 1991: In the wake of the Soviet Union’s break-up and the disintegration of the Socialist block, Cuba lost one of its strongest supporters and trading partners. Th e period after the loss of Soviet support is known as “the Special Period.” According to one professor who spoke with us, imports of oil and food products to Cuba dropped by seventy-fi ve percent after 1991. Th e Cuban Judicial System Th e judicial system in Cuba at the trial level consists of municipal courts and provincial courts. Th e People’s Supreme Court is the highest court and considers appeals from the municipal and provincial courts. Th e justices of the Supreme Court are all chosen by the National Assembly. Importantly, the Supreme Court does not exercise judicial review over the Legislative branch. Also, the Judicial branch is subordinate to the Executive branch of the Cuban government. Th us, the Cuban courts are subordinate to the National Assembly which is made up of popularly elected representatives. While judges act Over the past several years, there has been an outreach of Alabama lawyers to the Cuban legal community. Stan Murphy with the University of Alabama law school has led the eff ort and Stan has made many trips to Cuba researching legal issues aff ecting the U.S./Cuba relationship. Last year, a number of lawyers visited Cuba, led by State Bar President Jim Pratt. Th is delegation established good contacts with the national bar association in Havana. In June, State Bar President Phillip McCallum led another delegation to Havana to continue research on issues in U.S. and Cuban law that aff ect a variety of legal specialties. Th e trip was permitted by the U.S. Treasury Department pursuant to a license for professional research and study. Each member who participated was responsible for his or her own travel expenses. Our delegation was warmly welcomed in Cuba and we received outstanding hospitality from our hosts. Th is was truly a fascinating experience as we were able to see Cuba in a unique transition period in its history. In a few years, I anticipate that Cuba will be a very diff erent country than it is now. 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013
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