George "Rocky" Harper, the new president of the Inter-American Bar Association, promises to keep a high profile.
BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Harper Meyer partner George "Rocky" Harper is the first American president of the Inter-American Bar Association (IABA) since 1997. However, he's not your typical American. He was born in Cuba to an American father and thus knows firsthand the dictatorship there.
That background will prove useful as Harper takes the helm of the Bar just as Cuba is gaining more attention, while Latin America's democracies are once again under siege from human rights violations in countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.
MORE HUMAN RIGHTS FOCUS
The Bar, which already has been active in denouncing abuses in Latin America, will likely become even more vocal in its work for the rule of law in the region with Harper as president.
“One of the areas [the IABA will focus] more on is human rights,” he says.
The IABA, which was founded in 1940, serves as a forum for the exchange of professional views and information for lawyers practicing in the Americas.
Harper sees his new role as a “privilege and honor,” although it likely means extending his six-day workweek an additional day. To get the necessary energy, Harper typically gets up at dawn and swims for an hour before getting into his downtown Miami office by 7.30 AM for a 12-hour workday.
That is when he’s not on the road. “I try to be on the road every other week,” he said before assuming his latest role this week. When he’s not working, he likes to relax in the mountains of northern Georgia.
Harper received his B.S. from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the University of Miami Law Review and today serves as an adjunct professor of law.
Despite his life in the United States, he remains active in Cuban affairs. In addition to serving as a Board Member and Secretary of the Cuba Banking Study Group, he has given several presentations on Cuban topics ranging from post-Castro conditions to the US embargo against the island.
He has also given legal advice over the years to many clients on doing business with Cuba.
So, we ask, will democracy return to Cuba soon in light of Fidel Castro formally being succeeded by his brother Raul as president in February 2008? Not likely, Harper believes. “Fidel Castro’s [still] in charge,” he says.
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