Correspondent in Havana
The Cuban regime could sentence between 4 and 10 years of deprivation of liberty to citizens who, “by themselves or on behalf of NGOs, international institutions, associations or any natural or legal person of the country or of a foreign state, support, encourage, finance, provide, receive or has in its possession funds, material or financial resources, with the purpose of defraying activities against the State and its constitutional order”, as established in Article 143 of a preliminary draft of the Penal Code (CP) that, under the title “Other acts against State Security”, was recently published by the People’s Supreme Court on its website and will be presented to the National Assembly of People’s Power in April 2022.
If such provision is approved, the dictatorship will have “with another repressive tool to channel those who receive or finance what the officialdom considers activities against the State and its constitutional order,” said lawyer Eloy Viera Cañive, who added that the proposal “demonstrates that the Cuban regime not only wants to have highly symbolic regulations.” , but “to have at hand a tool that allows them to repress, without so many duplicities or spurious constructions, all those who decide to engage in politics or activism against them or outside their control.”
Although financing from abroad has been one of the arguments most used by the Cuban dictatorship to repress or disqualify independent initiatives or those contrary to the PCC, Viera Cañive recalls that these funds are necessary for any political work or social activism. «Philanthropy and financing to organizations and individuals who seek to carry out legal work It is not considered a crime in most of the world. On the contrary, the application to public or private funds, national or foreign, is a very common way of supporting activities as diverse as the promotion of human rights or scientific research.
Medicines, mobiles, food…
Article 143 of this preliminary draft of the Penal Code considers as financing the simplest show of support, be it a gift, receive recharges to cell phones, medicines or food from abroad for, for example, projects to help communities or vulnerable people, activists, political prisoners (more than 800 according to Prisoners Defenders) or their families. As activities contrary to the State would be all those that dissent or question the imposed power. Among the most affected would be the independent journalists, constantly accused of receiving funds from a foreign power but, to date, prosecuted for common crimes such as “public disorder or resistance”.
The best known antecedent is that of the Cuban Black Spring, occurred in 2003, when 75 Cuban dissidents, including some 25 independent journalists, were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison under Law 88, known as the ‘Gag Law’. However, if article 143 is approved, “the bodies of political repression will have a very clear criminal figure that they have always longed for. A criminal figure that would allow them to criminalize the exercise of independent journalism without contortionism,” says Viera Cañive, who adds that “the important thing, for the purposes of criminalization, is not money, but the intrinsic characteristic of journalistic journalism. question the power. A characteristic that in totalitarian environments, such as Cuba, is seen as an attack on the State and its constitutional order».
For the lawyer and director of the NGO Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, article 143 is “a clear message that Law 88 has been included as part of that legal body.” Speaking to the Cubanet digital portal, Diversent warned that “there does not even have to be political and ideological motivation. To criticize yeah, one way or another, any government policy suffice for this provision to apply’. Likewise, he considers that it is a legal mechanism “to prevent the development of civil society, which is currently growing.”
Many of the independent media or Cuban civil society organizations support themselves with Grants, public or private, as well as through other forms of financing, also mostly from abroad.
In recent years, the Cuban regime has expanded the legislation to justify the imprisonment or repression against independent journalists and civil society in general, such as Decree-Law 370/2018, Decree-Law 35/2021, Decree 42/ 2021 and Resolution 105/2021, through which disproportionate restrictions are imposed on the use of information and communication technologies and maintain a legal fence on the exercise of journalism and the independent press, according to Article 19 Office for Mexico and Central America in its 2021 report on Cuba entitled “Paper Democracy”. also hundreds of activists and reporters have been forced into exile, only more than a dozen of them in the last four months.
In a context defined by a legal system that protects power and not citizens, the almost certain approval of a law like this will favor the perpetuation of arbitrariness, the injustice and human rights violations.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism