Cuba modernizes laws but critics warn against dissent

Cuba modernizes laws but critics warn against dissent

Cuba's parliament has approved a new penal code that modernizes the country's laws but human rights groups warn tightens already strict limits on dissent.

The law prohibits foreign financing and controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals late on Sunday.

Supreme Court President Rub n Remigio Ferro called it a modern, very inclusive code telling state television that it favors prevention and education before repression, while imposing sanctions with sufficient rigor against crimes that affect social peace and the stability of our nation. It will take effect after going to a drafting commission and then be published in the official gazette.

Cuban authorities have never had trouble punishing dissent they see as dangerous. Hundreds of people were arrested in July 2021 for taking part in protests across the island and some were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges such as sedition. Independent journalists have been jailed on various charges, often choosing to leave the island.

In extreme cases, penalties of 10 to 30 years can be imposed on people who give information to international organizations, associations or even people that have not been authorized by the government.

It eliminates the vague, widely-used offense of precriminal dangerousness that was sometimes used against dissidents, but creates new categories of crimes.

People who insult or attack officials or civilians who are doing their citizens duty can be imprisoned for up to five years. A similar punishment can be imposed on those who incite against socialist order and 10 years for those who use communications media to do so.

The ban on unauthorized financing from international or domestic sources that contributes to the commission of a crime is one of the most questioned clauses. Ana Cristina N ez, senior researcher for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said that the new penal code is used by Cuban authorities to build an intricate and perverse legal regime of censorship and deal a devastating blow to independent journalists and outlets.

It maintains a potential death penalty for 23 crimes, though it hasn't been applied since 2003 and adds to sentences when crimes involve gender violence or crimes against minors and disabled people.

The age of criminal responsibility remains at 16.

Saily Gonz lez, an activist who has been monitoring the protests to the 2021 protests, said that this law is a direct way for the government to protect itself against civil society and political dissidence.

The lawmakers didn't want to include a measure backed by Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Ra l Castro, to make femicide an explicit crime. Another deputy, Teresa Amarelle, leader of the Federation of Cuban Woman, said that was not needed because of the newly toughened punishment against gender violence.