The unicameral parliament of the Cuban dictatorship, the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba (ANPP), approved this Sunday, in an extraordinary session, the new Penal Code which, among other things, provides for penalties of up to three years for those who insult senior officials and prohibits external funding of the media.
Deputies approved the project during a session in which the dictators were present Miguel-Diaz Canel and Raúl Castro.
Activists and opponents believe that this reform will silence social protest and independent journalism.
The new code, which will enter into force within 90 days of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic, includes 37 new offenses such as “public disturbance” to sanction “tampering produced in groups or individually”.
Besides, classifies as crimes of “sedition” those who manifest or commit acts of “civil disobedience”; propaganda against the constitutional order and the socialist state; or spread false news that endangers the prestige of the Cuban state”.
Penalizes participation in “subversive activities and attacks on information and communication technologies”
It also provides for penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone who “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in his possession funds, material or financial resources” from non-governmental organizations or international institutions that may be used to “pay for activities against the state and its constitutional order.
The rule increases the penalty to up to 30 years in prison for espionage crimes and the exchange of unclassified or secret information with foreign diplomatic personnel.
As soon as it was published as a draft on the website of the General Prosecutor’s Office last March, the text aroused rejection among dissidents of the communist government.
“The new Penal Code is a new twist by the regime to intensify repression against citizens,” René Gómez Manzano, president of the Corriente Agramontista, Cuba’s oldest opposition lawyers’ organization, told AFP.
This legislation llega luego de las históricas manifestaciones del 11 y 12 de julio pasados en Cuba, las mayores en 60 años, que dejaron un saldo de un muerto, decenas de heridos y más de 1,300 detenidos, muchos de los cuales han sido condenados a penas hasta de 30 years.
“It’s not the Penal Code that Cuba needs,” lawyer Harold Bertot, until recently an academic at the University of Havana, now in Madrid, told AFP. “Chronologically, its discussion and eventual implementation coincide at a time of political and social tension in Cuba,” he said. The Code “is committed to criminal expansionism, harsher penalties, and (is) designed to have a significant impact on Cuban political activism,” he denounces.
In the text, a figure is added to the crime of “public disorder” which penalizes individual or collective demonstrations, while in the acts “against state security” another figure is inserted to punish the external financing of activities not legal.
Opposition digital media, activists and dissident groups are accused of “mercenaries” for receiving funding from US agencies and NGOs, for which they can now be sentenced to between four and ten years in prison.
“In a country where private media are illegal and where journalists have no possibility of obtaining local funding, banning foreign funding is a death sentence for independent journalism”, reacted in February the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).
Yes indeed the current crime of “enemy propaganda” becomes “propaganda against the constitutional order”, while crimes against public order will include the “dissemination of false news or malicious predictions for the purpose of causing alarm, discontent or misinformation”remind the authors of the Code.
Bertot also considers that the law provides for “a non-negligible number of crimes which require the death penalty as a sanction, even when its “exceptional” character is recognized, it goes against the criminal tendencies of the American continent itself which have opted for its deletion. “.
In the first decades of the revolution, “el paredón”, capital punishment by firing squad, was frequently applied as a deterrent. Since 2000, however, a de facto moratorium has been in place, which was broken only in April 2003, with the execution of three hijackers from a boat with 50 passengers in Havana Bay, trying to emigrate.