Our day began with a meeting at the Union of Cuban Jurists with Dorys Quintana Cruz, a distinguished international relations attorney. The Union of Cuban Jurists is essentially the Cuban version of the American Bar Association, and Mrs. Cruz was more than accommodating in explaining to us how sports in Cuba are structured and regulated, despite her and our translator’s bewilderment as to why issues involving sports would ever need to involve the law. The confusion stems from the fact that agencies of the government of Cuba tightly control its sports and athletes, and swiftly handles any disputes that may arise.
In Cuba, sports are a human right that is guaranteed by the state. Sports are tightly controlled because the state assumes the responsibility of protecting and covering the right to sports as human right.
As part of regulating and guaranteeing this right, there are several government agencies set up, including INDER, ESPA, and Cuba Deportes.
INDER is a Cuban government ministry that regulates everything in Cuba that concerns recreation, health programs, and school programs that are related to sports. The official state goal of INDER is the search of human values within sports.
ESPA is the agency that governs sports education and trainers. Cuba has a very proud tradition of excellent training and medical programs that the government feels gives Cuba a substantial advantage in international competitions.
Finally, Cuba Deportes regulates the business aspects of Cuban sports under INDER. The enterprise was created to export Cuba’s trainers, doctors, therapists, and sports academics to other countries. In exchange, Cuba receives sports delegations from other countries and trains them in what they know in these subjects. Cuba Deportes is also responsible for organizing sporting events and competitions in Cuba.
Along with laying out how sports are regulated in Cuba, we were able to engage in a great discussion about the Cuban legal system. Cuba’s system has a variety of influences stemming from its long and complicated history. Cuba considers itself to be an influence of German, Roman, and French law, with oral trials that are influenced by Spanish law. Cuban law ultimately aims to follow the ideals of Jose Marti and Marxism, using the quote “I want the primary goal of our republic to be the [tribute] to human dignity, with everyone and for the good of everyone” for guidance.
We also managed to touch on intellectual property issues (we discovered that the right of publicity is not a thing in Cuba because there is no private advertising), immigration issues, and ethics standards regarding practicing law in Cuba. Everybody in our group was riveted by our discussion and we could have kept Mrs. Cruz all day discussing the differences between Cuban and American law. It was an incredibly rewarding opportunity that left both sides truly learning something about a foreign culture.
From there we moved onto lunch at a paladar. Paladars are restaurants that are privately owned and operated out of a citizen’s home with permission from the Cuban government. This practice is relatively new, but many private residents have jumped at the entrepreneurial opportunity that has popped up from the relative loosening of government control on the Cuban economy. This particular paladar was on top of a five-story building that offered an incredible view of downtown Havana.
After lunch, we met with a representative from the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, where we discussed the strained, but improving relationship between the Cuban and American governments. We were all able to discuss our disappointment and frustration with the continuing economic blockade that makes very little sense a quarter century after the end of the Cold War. It was clear from this meeting that Cubans and Americans are eager to interact with each other on a regular basis, and we each expressed our hope for an end to the embargo and fully normalized relations sooner, rather than later
From there, we explored more of old Havana, including a trip across Havana Bay to explore a little bit of La Cabana and Del Morro, two fortresses that are remnants of colonial times. The fortresses offer some incredible views of the Havana skyline and help put some of Cuba’s long and somewhat complicated history as a colonial stronghold in the Caribbean. After a quick stop back at the hotel, we were off to another paladar for dinner.
Day 2 was a very fulfilling day in which we managed to lay the foundation for why we are here: to study the role of law in sports in Cuba, and the potential changes that are coming as Cuba and the United States move closer to fully normalized relations.