Cuba approved a new penal code adding public disorder as a crime

Cuba updated the list of crimes in its penal code, now tackling environmental crimes, cyber criminality, gender violence but also public disorder.

Cuba National Assembly on May 15, during the second day of its fifth extraordinary session
Cuba National Assembly on May 15, during the second day of its fifth extraordinary session | Twitter

The National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba voted on the new penal code of the country on May 15 in an extraordinary session. It adds public disorder as a crime.

People who insult high-ranking public officials may face up to three years in prison. Anyone who “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in their possession funds, material or financial resources” from non-governmental organizations or international institutions that can be used to “pay for activities against the State and its constitutional order” can be charged with up to 10 years of prison.

Activists and opponents have denounced that the new code seeks to silence social protest, activism and independent journalism. Last July, unique protests reached the streets of Cuba during which authorities indicted 790 people for acts of vandalism, including 115 minor Cubans between 16 and 18 years old, while for months the country had denied having jailed anyone.

Criminal liability in Cuba is maintained to start at 16 years old.

The new code can penalize foreign financing of non-governmental organizations and media, a tool typically used to restrict freedom of speech.

Propaganda from the enemy is now referred to as propaganda against the constitutional order.

Supporters of the new penal code describe it as an updated version from 1987 as it didn’t tackle environmental crimes, cyber criminality or gender violence.

The new penal code adds 37 new crimes such as the crime of “public disorder,” carried out in groups or individually. The death penalty is possible for 23 different types of crime, four less than in the previous code. Lawmaker María Armenia Yi Reina said she was against the death penalty because, as a Catholic person, death can only occur through natural causes.

The last death sentence was pronounced in 2003 against three people who hijacked a boat during protests.

Feminists lamented femicide was not incorporated as a crime. Mariela Castro Espín, Raúl Castro’s daughter, asked on Sunday for the term femicide to be added to the code but Rubén Remigio Ferro, the chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court of Cuba, argued it already encompassed it under the term gender violence.

The new code will be enforced in 90 days and, unlike the new family code, will not be submitted to public consultation or a referendum.

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