J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Miami Chapter Hosts First Trip to Cuba, Looks Forward to Many More

Nancy Van Slooten, our guide Chris Colonna,
Michael Peterson, Abrahm Smith, Ryan Hamilton,
Rebecca van Uitert, Jason Howell, Denise
Lindberg and Neil Lindberg in front of the US
Embassy in Havana.
The Law Society visited Cuba in early May on a trip organized by the Miami Chapter. The purpose of the trip was to build bridges between Law Society members and Cuba. We had a total of eight individuals, including two judges and one medical doctor. We were fortunate to have as part of our group, Judge Denise Lindberg, who was born in Havana, Cuba and left when she was a child. We enjoyed being with Judge Lindberg as she shared stories of her family and memories of Cuba. I encourage you to speak with Judge Lindberg about Cuba the next time you see her at a Law Society event.

Cuba is proud of its education and health care. We were pleased to meet with Dr. Marcelino Feal, a professor of general surgery. He has practiced medicine for more than 30 years in Cuba. Of interest, Cuba designates a community doctor who lives within an assigned community of about 1,000 people. The doctor is charged with them on a regular basis and serves as a local community resource. For example, if an individual needs a prescription, he or she can walk down the block, knock on the doctor's door and receive a prescription.

We met with a number of individuals who discussed Cuba's past, present and future. We were pleased to meet with Narciso Cobo, a Cuban attorney and former member of Cuba's Supreme Court. He discussed the court system in Cuba, including issues related to religious freedom. After listening to him, I believe religious freedom will continue to expand in Cuba.

We visited the United States embassy and met with Travis Olsen, a member of the LDS Church and fellow attorney who works at the embassy. President Obama’s departure from policies that isolate Cuba and his visits there have encouraged Cubans to believe that the United States will engage with Cuba. Although, the Trump administration has been relatively quiet on its intended policy with Cuba, I sense that the people of Cuba believe that the U.S./Cuba relationship will continue to improve.

Michael Peterson and Nancy Van Slooten. The
group rode around in a couple of 1950s era cars
which were well maintained and still running.
We visited with Rafael Hernandez, an economics professor at the University of Havana. We enjoyed learning about the Cuban political system and its election system. He indicated that the next president of Cuba will likely be Miguel Diaz-Canel when elections are held in early 2018. Given that a Castro has been in power since 1959, this will be a significant change. In addition, Mr. Diaz-Canel is about 30 years younger than Raul Castro. Thus, not only will Cuba likely be governed by a non-Castro, but also a person from a different generation.

We toured Havana with two architects who showed us a treasure trove of architecture, including buildings that have been remodeled and buildings that needed substantial remodeling. U.S. citizens are not yet able to own property in Cuba, but many Cubans have family in the United States who are sending money to Cuba to buy and repair homes.

Judge Denise Lindberg and Nancy Van
Slooten in front of the Revolution Museum
where Judge Lindberg told of her mother
being a press secretary to Fidel Castro,
Judge Lindberg being a flower girl at Raul
Castro’s wedding, and their exile from
Cuba when she was 9 1/2 years old. 
This was her first time back to her
On Sunday we attended the local LDS Church services. Cuba has two branches that meet in Havana. Each branch has about 50 members who attend each Sunday. One of the highlights of the trip was listening to Judge Lindberg, who also serves as a member of the LDS General Young Women Board, speak to the members of the congregation. The Holy Spirit was strong and the members were touched to listen to a fellow Cuban share her testimony of Jesus Christ. The Cuban branches have many wonderful, faithful brothers and sisters, including a recent convert who is a Cuban attorney. He has a strong testimony of the Gospel and taught during the 3rd hour of Church services.

Our trip to Cuba was a wonderful success. We hope many more Law Society members will join us next time.

By Abrahm Smith, Miami Chapter member

Posted: May 31, 2017