Celia Ampel, Daily Business Review
June 26, 2015
The Florida Bar’s international law section on Friday recognized Cuban dissident lawyer Rene de Jesus Gomez Manzano for fighting human rights violations in his country.
“When we talk about sacrifice, we talk about maybe having to work on the weekend,” Miami attorney Jim Meyer said as he presented the award. “When we talk about courage, it usually involves driving on I-95 or U.S. 1. But there are people putting their lives in jeopardy every day fighting for things that we just take for granted.”
Gomez has been imprisoned in Cuba three times for his activism, once for co-authoring “The Homeland Belongs To All,” which called for economic, social and judicial reforms in the country. He also runs an organization of independent lawyers in Cuba.
The defense attorney traveled to South Florida to accept the award at the annual Florida Bar convention at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
“I am very proud to be here in the United States,” he said. “I am very proud of having been invited to address this meeting.”
Gomez met several members of the Bar section when members took a four-day trip to Cuba last month. The meeting included just a handful of the 36 people who traveled to Havana from May 27-30.
The section didn’t want to list the meeting on its agenda or include the whole group because of fear of retribution from the Cuban government, outgoing section chair and Miami attorney Peter Quinter said.
But Quinter said the lawyers hope to visit Gomez again, and he said he wanted the award to make a statement about the section’s support for the dissident’s work.
“The Florida Bar stands with you in your fight against totalitarianism and for human rights,” Quinter told Gomez.
The Cuba trip was a section effort to form stronger relations with bar associations in other countries.
“I can’t believe that people are going to the Georgia Bar and talking about the relationship with Cuba,” Quinter said, noting Georgia’s bar association is planning to send a delegation to Cuba. “It should be right here in South Florida.”
The section, chaired starting Friday by Coral Gables attorney Eduardo Palmer, also has recently formed or improved relationships with bar associations in Barcelona, Brussels, Paris and Quebec.
Palmer traveled to Spain to meet with the Barcelona bar association. He said he learned the “dire straits” of Spain’s economy were pushing many businesspeople to look for opportunities to export goods to Latin America.
“They are extremely anxious to engage with us,” he said. “They see us as a connection to Latin America and hope for their economy.”
The international law section is larger than it has ever been and has more money in its coffers than it has ever had, including more than $100,000 in sponsor contributions this year, Quinter said.
Forming bonds with attorneys in other countries will be paramount for the section as it moves into the next year, Quinter said.
“Keep these relationships year after year,” he said. “Don’t let them die.”
Read more: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202730669916/Florida-Bar-Section-Honors-Cuban-Dissident-Lawyer#ixzz3eCLvsjvM