By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – As many of you know, the so-called National Assembly of People’s Power recently “unanimously” approved Cuba’s New Penal Code, which replaces the former Code that had been in force since 1987.
I’m writing unanimously in quotation marks because most everyone knows that these lawmakers (if we can call them this) only play the sad role of raising their hand and approving any decision adopted by Cuba’s ruling elite.
This has always been the case and it won’t change as long as the totalitarian system, which has been imposed for over 60 years, remains in power. This is because it is a fake parliament which doesn’t have any real legislative power, but instead exists on paper to paint a picture of democracy and civic spirit.
A parliament that only meets twice a year and a couple of other times when the Ruling Elite need to implement an important decision.
Well, anyway, this new Penal Code is looking quite draconian. I’ll prove this with my general opinion about some of the articles that have been introduced in the Special Criminal Law section, the objective of which is to “clamp down” on anyone who dissents.
A new section called “Crimes against constitutional order” has been added.
According to Article 119, you can be executed by firing squad or be sentenced to 10-30 years in prison if you take up arms against the Government or simply make a call for an uprising. If this uprising doesn’t happen, you can be sentenced to 4-10 years in prison.
According to Article 120, if you go out to protest and allege that the Constitution grants you this right, you can be sentenced to 4-10 years in prison, regardless of the other crimes they might want to charge you with, which would then be added to this sentence.
Article 121 establishes 10-20 year prison sentences for anyone who goes to a protest or makes demands against elections, any court sentence or legislation bill approved by the State.
This also applies to public officials who refuse to comply with their official duties in these matters.
Imagine something like a five-year prison sentence just for protesting outside a government institution because of some decree-law or regulation that violates your rights.
Up to 30 years in prison, a life-sentence or even death if you use violence, which is something that could happen, every time the police or government supporters come to clash with you, not keeping the peace a lot of the time.
Also, up to 30 years, a life-sentence or death if you are a member of a military unit or if what you did is considered a threat to national Security.
“Propaganda against the constitutional order”
According to Article 124, you can now be locked behind bars for 2-5 years if you speak out against the regime, by oral or written means, and this applies to people who criticize the dictatorship on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can also receive this sentence if you have this content in your possession or if you distribute it, as well as if you record an act of repression on your cellphone.
Prison sentences of 4-10 years are granted if you use a social communication platform to make a complaint, and it’s a 1-3 year prison sentence for people responsible for this channel that allow these kinds of expressions, for example: the head of a department at a newspaper, magazine or TV channel.
“Other acts against National security”
According to Article 143, if you receive financial aid that allows you to act against the regime, you can receive a 4-10 year prison sentence. This perfectly applies to journalists who work for independent media outlets.
These articles are just a representative sample of the clampdown on repression that is coming for Cuban society. But they aren’t the only ones. The new Penal Code stipulates sanctions against people who are members of organizations that aren’t approved by the Government, against those who criticize Mr. Diaz-Canel or any leader of the Communist Party, etc.
The former Code wasn’t benevolent in any regard when it came to dissident protests; however, it’s clear that the new legal document outlines specific activities and hikes up criminal sanctions.
The question floating around now is: Will the regime rigorously apply this legislation? My answer is no.
It would be very hard for them to process, fine and lock up everyone who expresses their discontent daily, especially on social media.
No matter how afraid people may be, they need to vent their frustration somehow and there is no legal document that can contain the Cuban people’s rejection of the failure of the so-called Revolution.
But the Government does need this legal framework to justify the atrocities they are committing. This is why the new Penal Code was approved, which is yet another display of the Communist regime’s systematic violation of basic human rights and freedoms which every human on this Earth should have access to.
Even those of us in Cuba, who are just as human.