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Fearing protests, Cuba clamps down on dissent, independent media with new criminal code

Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

Despite international outcry, the criminal code also keeps the legal age of majority at 16, a provision in the current code that allowed government prosecutors to issue prison sentences to several July 11 demonstrators below the age of 18.

The code approved Sunday also ensures that state institutions and government-sponsored political organizations do not face accountability, as one of the articles shields them from legal liability.

Authorities called the new code “modern.” Activists and independent journalists called it an assault on civil and political freedoms, “a penal code to muzzle us all,” Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez wrote.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent group based in New York, also condemned the new code as a threat to independent media in Cuba.

“We are alarmed by the passage of Cuba’s new penal code, which further criminalizes the work of independent journalists on the island by banning foreign funding and puts their existence and sustainability at dire risk,” said Ana Cristina Núñez, the organization’s Latin American and the Caribbean senior researcher. “With the new penal code, Cuban authorities continue to build an intricate and perverse legal regime of censorship and deal a devastating blow to independent journalists and outlets.”


On Monday, several Cuban activists and exiles expressed dismay and disappointment at the Biden administration’s announcement of changes in Cuba policy, just a day after the new penal code was approved.

Anamely Ramos, a Cuban art curator linked to the dissident artistic movement San Isidro who was recently refused entry into the country and is currently living in Miami, said the administration rewarded the island’s government with the easing of some sanctions despite the ongoing crackdown.

“New criminal code in Cuba to better repress. More than 1,000 political prisoners. Minors sentenced to more than 15 years. A father in a sit-in demanding freedom. In the midst of this, the United States decides to bet again for the thaw. Shame!” she said.


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