Ten months after unprecedented anti-government protests rocked Cuba, parliament unanimously approved On Sunday, a penal reform that opponents say is designed to quell future public outbursts.
On July 11, 2021, the country witnessed the largest anti-communist demonstrations in 60 years. One person was killed, dozens were injured, and hundreds were imprisoned as a result of the government crackdown.
In presenting the code to parliament, Supreme Court President Ruben Remigio Ferro stated that the new law “classifies as crimes the most serious and harmful acts for society and protects the interests of the state and the people.”
The penal code reform is part of a slew of laws that need to be passed to give execution to Cuba’s new constitution, approved in 2019.
But unlike other draft laws — including a new family code that will legalize same-sex marriage and surrogacy — there was no public consultation, and there will be no referendum.
With the code, “the regime is turning the screw, intensifying the repression of citizens,” Rene Gomez Manzano, a 77-year-old lawyer, former political prisoner and dissident activist, told AFP earlier this week.
Ferro said the new code would provide “stability to the nation” and would cover online content as well as “illicit acts” that affect the environment and Cuba’s heritage.
“The most serious violations related to the abuse of constitutional rights, participation in subversive activities and attacks on information and communication technologies will be penalized,” said Ferro.
The code creates 37 brand-new offenses related to the use of “telecommunications, information and communication technologies.”
This is an apparent response to the arrival of the mobile internet on the island in 2018, which has revolutionized the way people express discontent and organize themselves in a one-party state known for its dislike of dissent.
The death penalty is abolished in four crimes but retained in 23 others, namely “crimes against state security, terrorism, international drug trafficking, and murder.”
It extends criminal responsibility to the age of 16 and institutes new penalties such as house arrest and community service.
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