Cuba and the Law of Retaliation

Dariela Aquique

Justice symbol.

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 2 — In terms of criminal law, the “Law of Retaliation” is a legal principle of retributive justice in which punishment or a sentence is equivalent to the crime.

The background of its application dates back to ancient times, where the first record we have of it is in the “Code of Hammurabi,” formulated in 1692 BC (one of the first sets of law ever established and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from antiquity). From it was established the relation between the injury suffered and the punishment to be exacted.

In the history of law, this contributed to the concept of “proportionality” between crime and punishment, a notion summed up in the familiar phrase “an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth.”

However, what also appeared in times past was the custom of publicizing the crime committed, as well as the issuance of the penalty and its execution. This of course served as a censure against the criminal and as a deterrent to others.

Currently many people here in Santiago de Cuba are calling for the application of the “Law of Retaliation.” What has caused the highest degree outrage among people of all ages and both sexes was a heartbreaking and horrendous act: the brutal rape and murder of a girl who was only ten years old.

The vicious act occurred recently in the beachside village of Juragua, along the coast of Santiago de Cuba Province. The police responded quickly and in a short time they apprehended the suspected criminal.

But what is adding to the infuriation among the public is that nothing about the tragic attack has been reported in the media. All of the information circulating — including horrifying autopsy photos — is being presented clandestinely – a fashion that has now become a part of Cuban life.

People are demanding their right to know about the details of this case that has shocked us all. In fact, many people (including myself) are advocating suspending the moratorium on the death penalty in cases like this. Here, the law of retaliation appears just to all of us.

On the other hand, if the case had been about the arrest of dissidents or “hackers” (as they now call those people who sell Internet time to people desperate for information, or at least those wanting more than a single version of the news), the case would have been televised and published “pelos y señales” (warts and all), as the saying goes.

But no. This case is being blacked-out in the press as the powers that be classify such news as yellow journalism.

Likewise, the moratorium on the death penalty was applied in the wake of the international uproar in protest of the firing-squad execution of the young people who attempted to hijack a ferry in Havana Bay.

We’ll have to see if anything happens to make the government consider this a serious threat to its stability (less and less stable). They may be forced to suspend the moratorium under the pressure of public opinion, nationally or internationally.

However, releasing the details of a crime (regardless of the emotional impact this would have on people), is something typically reserved only for those incidents that affect the country’s politics.

Apparently it’s easier for us to return to lining up of dissidents against the wall, if the conflict becomes complex, than to do the same with a brutal rapist and murderer of little girls. Here the law of retaliation will not be carried out unless it suits them.

One thought on “Cuba and the Law of Retaliation

  • Dear Dariela,
    it is with sadness to read that you advocate the death penalty, albeit for a heinous crime. I think no society can truly be civilised if it allows the state to kill its own citizens. I think punishment to live incarcerated until death, is worse than the cheap get away of being executed. There is nothing wrong with feeling a spontaneous desire to retaliate. It shows a sense of justice. But on second thoughts that impulse must always be resisted. It will always lead to more bloodshed and more killings and more sufferings. Please do not hate. It is not a healthy way of dealing with outrage. Most of all, it has never been proven to prevent a single murder.

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