Rights groups say the new Cuban penal code is more difficult to dissent

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Havana – Cuba’s parliament has approved a new penal code that officials say has modernized the country’s law, but human rights groups have already warned against tightening restrictions on dissent.

The law, approved on Sunday, strictly regulates unauthorized contact with foreign companies and individuals and explicitly prohibits foreign financing.

Supreme Court President Reuben Ramizio Ferrero called it “a modern, highly inclusive code”, telling state television that it supported “prevention and education before persecution” and was “sufficiently strict” against crimes that “affect social peace and our stability”. Prohibits “. Race. “

It will take effect after it goes to a draft commission and then published in the official gazette.

The Cuban authorities have never had a problem punishing dissent as they see it 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 for treason: Independent journalists have occasionally been jailed on various charges, often choosing to leave the island.

Under the new law, fines of 10 to 30 years – up to death in extreme cases – could be imposed on those who provide information to international organizations, associations or even individuals not authorized by the government.

It eliminates the vague, widespread crime of “criminal dangerousness” that was sometimes used against dissidents, but creates new categories of crime.

Those who insult or attack officials or civilians who are performing their “citizen duties” could face up to five years in prison. Similar punishments can be imposed on those who “provoke” against socialist discipline – and 10 years for those who use the media to do so.

One of the most questionable clauses is the prohibition on any unauthorized financing from international or domestic sources that contributes to the occurrence of a crime. This clause does not affect remittances from Cubans living abroad.

“With the new penal code, Cuban authorities continue to create a complex and distorted legal system of censorship and deal a devastating blow to independent journalists and outlets,” said Anna Christina Nunez, a senior Caribbean researcher for Latin American and New York. Committee for the protection of journalists.

The new code reinforces penalties for corruption, speculation and hoarding.

Despite some allegations, it maintains a potential death penalty for 23 crimes – although it has not been enforced since 2003 – and adds penalties if the crime involves sexual violence or crimes against minors and persons with disabilities.

The age of criminal liability remains at 16.

The law is “a more direct way for the government to equip itself against civil society, against political dissent,” said Saily Gonzalez, a leading activist who monitored the response to the 2021 protests.

Lawmakers have refused to include a measure backed by Marila Castro, the daughter of former President Raul Castro, for committing homicide and blatant crimes. Another deputy, Teresa Amerel, leader of the Federation of Cuban Women, said the new harsh punishment against gender-based violence was not necessary.

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