The new Cuban Penal Code, approved this Sunday in the National Assembly, has drawn criticism from the beginning from dissidence and activism, who denounce that it will suffocate social protest and independent journalism.
The new legal text increases the criminal types, by 37, and toughens the penalties (four more crimes with the death penalty; 10 more with life imprisonment). It also incorporates a calculated ambiguity that enables the arbitrariness of the regime. The reform, denounces the dissidence, is a legal reaction to the anti-government protests of July 11.
The most worrying thing, they say, are the new criminal types for public disorder and against State security, as well as those that penalize foreign financing of NGOs or the media and the description of the crime of espionage.
Lawyer Fernando Almeyda, in the independent media La Joven Cuba, considered that the recently approved code “reaches a new level, institutionalizing violence in favor of the interests of the State.”
He stressed that the text exempts from criminal liability those who act to “repel or prevent a danger or damage to the social interests of the State” and such as the pro-government groups that clashed with the July 11 protesters. He also warned that police, military and officials are exempted from criminal liability for “acting in compliance with a duty.”
The crimes of spreading false news and sedition are also maintained -which has punished some of the July 11 protesters with up to 30 years in prison-, and that of enemy propaganda is now called propaganda against the constitutional order.
“If the 1987 Code offers little guarantee, the new one completely penalizes the existence of dissent,” concludes Almeyda.
Along the same lines, the Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC), the Cuban Women’s Network (RFC) and the Association of Mothers and Relatives 11J for Amnesty (AMFA) position themselves in a joint statement.
“The Penal Code is the foundation of the Cuban repressive machinery, which criminalizes non-violent dissidence without any hesitation,” they argue.
These three groups also denounce that some criminal typologies are “so vaguely defined” that “they offer wide discretion.”
MEDIA, FUNDING, ESPIONAGE AND INTERNET
Different associations have targeted another point that they consider thorny: the sentence of four to 10 years for people –or representatives of NGOs– who receive funds “for the purpose of paying for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement that the modification could have “catastrophic” effects for independent journalism in Cuba, “a country where private media are illegal and journalists do not have the possibility of obtaining financing.” local”.
This, added to the aforementioned crimes of propaganda and dissemination of false news, is equivalent to a “death sentence” for independent journalism, CPJ considered.
The new criminal code also includes as an aggravating circumstance the commission of certain crimes on social networks, such as instigation to commit a crime, slander, insult and acts against privacy and image, as pointed out by the independent media outlet Inventario.
Then there is the crime of espionage, for which providing information to a foreign State, NGOs, international institutions, associations or natural and legal persons can be punished with up to 30 years in prison, life imprisonment and even the death penalty.
Capital punishment – already abolished in most countries – is provided for in 24 criminal figures of the new penal code, four more than in the text in force since 1987.
Unlike the previous legislation, the death penalty is reserved almost exclusively for crimes against the internal and external security of the State, in addition to some of a sexual nature and murder.
Its application in more types of crimes contrasts with the practical moratorium that exists in the country, where the death penalty has not been used in almost 20 years. The last execution was carried out in 2003, against three people who hijacked a boat during the wave of protests and repression known as the Black Spring.